Amazon Working on 'Five or Six' New Tablets, Says Staples Exec

Amazon is working on five or six new tablets, a seemingly loose-lipped Staples executive told Reuters. If Amazon’s plan to more aggressively enter the tablet market is a secret, it’s one of the industry’s worst kept.

Amazon has big tablet plans in the works, which it, no doubt, hopes will help it to outperform Samsung, as the pair contends for the No. 2 spot behind Apple€™s iPad.

Amazon plans to introduce €œup to five or six tablet€ options, Demos Parneros, president of U.S. Retail for Staples told Reuters, according to a July 23 report, apparently spilling some beans.

Amazon offered no comment on the report.

On Nov. 15, 2011, Amazon began shipping the Kindle Fire, a $199, 7-inch, long-anticipated tablet to follow up on its e-reader success. Some wondered if the late date would hurt holiday sales, but the device sold tremendously, grabbing 17 percent of the global tablet market share during the quarter on sales of 4.8 million units. As a partial consequence, Samsung€™s tablet shipments during the fourth quarter bumped to 5.8 percent, from 5.5 percent the quarter before.

Amazon took a loss on the hardware side with the Fire, betting that it would encourage sales of its digital offerings, from MP3s and movies to apps and games. And indeed, Flurry reported in January that the Fire had already driven downloads of 2.5 times more paid apps than the Samsung Galaxy Tab, despite there being at least twice as many Galaxy Tabs in users€™ hands.

The Fire also boosted market share for tablets running the Android OS to 39 percent during the quarter, up from 29 percent a year earlier, according to Strategy Analytics.

IDC reported in March that the Fire also had the effect of raising €œconsumers€™ awareness of the category worldwide, despite the fact that it had shipped almost exclusively in the United States in the fourth quarter, research director Tom Mainelli said in a March report.

€œAs a result, products across the pricing spectrum sold well, including everything from Apple€™s premium-priced iPads (which start at $499) to Pandigital€™s line of Android-based, entry-level tablets (which start at $120),€ Mainelli continued.

Into the quieter, early months of 2012, however, the Fire failed to spark consumers€™ interest, and its first-quarter market share fell to just over 4 percent, allowing Samsung to resume the No. 2 position. Lenovo managed to grab the No. 4 spot, followed by Barnes & Noble with its Nook.

Apple, meanwhile, €œreasserted its dominance,€ IDC reported, shipping 11.8 million iPads for a 68 percent share of the tablet market.

IDC€™s Mainelli, in a May report, wrote that Android vendors were finally figuring out what Amazon, B&N and Pandigital realized long ago: that competing against the iPad means keeping prices low. He added that IDC expected a larger-screened tablet from Amazon, with an aggressive price point, and an Asus-made tablet from Google.

Google introduced the 7-inch Nexus 7 at its I/O developer conference June 27. Priced at $199, it€™s the first device to run Android 4.1, known as Jelly Bean, and is said to be notably light and easy on the eyes.

There have been reports of Amazon working on additional Fire sizes since within days of the tablet€™s November 2011 launch; DigiTimes immediately reported that 8.9- and 10.1-inch models were in development.

More recently, a July 15 New York Times report said that €œAmazon is working on a new version of the Kindle Fire, with a larger display, that could compete more directly with the iPad €¦€

Amazon shouldn€™t be too tough on Staples€™ Parneros. If he did spill some beans, there couldn€™t have been very many left in the jar.