Kindle Fire is the biggest threat to the Kindle, Nook Tablet/HD is the biggest threat to the Nook

The Kindle Fire and the Nook HD are the biggest threats to the Kindle and the Nook.

First, let’s understand what dedicated eReaders are up against.

The Perception War eReaders have had to Fight

Dedicated eReaders have always had to fight a lot of ‘perceptions’ and ‘prejudices’. Basically, 2007 to 2012 has been an all-out ‘Perception War’.

  1. No one reads any more. It’s a $25 billion a year business in the US (or at least was in 2007) and yet people seem to believe this nonsense.
  2. Readers will not buy a device dedicated to reading. Again, this is beyond ridiculous. For some reason it’s OK for people in every other passion/interest to buy specialized equipment and devices – However, readers are supposed to not buy a device dedicated to reading.
  3. eInk is not better than LCD. Again, we have LCD-compatibles and they exist in a world where they think of LCD-incompatibles much as we think of werewolves and vampires. Surely, they don’t really exist. How could there be someone who wants to read a book in black and white?
  4. If a device can do more than just read, then it’s the best choice for reading. This is one of the funniest arguments. A reader wants to get ‘the best reading device’ and his non-reader friend says – Why not get something that you can do more than just read on? Why do you care if the reading experience isn’t as good?
  5. Readers don’t want to let go of the touch and smell of books. Apparently, from the number of eReaders being sold, they are getting over it.

However, that wasn’t all. Reality wasn’t kind to eReaders either.

The Reality of what eReaders had to Face

In addition to the Perception War, eReaders had to fight some harsh realities -

  1. LCD screens were far, far advanced in their evolution. eInk had (and still has) a really, really difficult task in front of it.
  2. LCD Screens were evolving faster than eInk.
  3. The companies making eReaders (with the exception of Sony) had zero prior hardware experience.
  4. Getting people to spend $399 or $299 and then having to pay again for books.
  5. Users were used to books and bookstores. eBooks was very new and scary.
  6. Publishers were very reluctant to let ebooks grow.
  7. Tablets were evolving much faster than eReaders. The Tablet reading experience (thanks to things like retina displays) was coming closer to the eInk reading experience in overall satisfaction.

It’s a miracle that we are seeing 10 million or so eReaders being sold every year. We started off with forecasts of ’40,000 Kindles sold and then it dies’. Now, with 10 million Kindles and Nooks and eReaders being sold every year, it’s again time to consider the mortality of eReaders.

Amazon and B&N are more focused on Tablets than eReaders

Somewhere along the way Amazon and B&N realized a few things -

  1. Tablets can evolve much faster than eReaders because the main ingredient (the screen) is evolving much faster.
  2. With Tablets they can sell users books and movies and music and eventually teddy bears and diapers and kitchen sinks.
  3. They can flip the Tablet encroachment (and they have). If this seems an exaggeration, consider that if it were not for Nook Color and Kindle Fire, Apple would not have released an iPad Mini and Google would not have released a Nexus 7. Nook Color and Kindle Fire created and cemented the 7″ Tablet Market.
  4. With Tablets they can reach casual readers who were choosing Tablets over eReaders.
  5. With Tablets they don’t have to wait another 25 years to get color eInk and sell movies.

It’s actually a very smart move by both companies to shift to Tablets. They are now selling to dedicated readers and casual readers. They are now selling books and movies. They are increasing their customer base.

This might be a great decision for Amazon and B&N but it’s very damaging for eReaders.

Amazon & B&N would rather sell Tablets to Readers than Dedicated eReaders

Imagine you’re B&N or Amazon. You have two options.

Option 1: Sell a reader a dedicated eReader. Then make money from ebooks sold. Also, watch while the reader buys an iPad and spends money on movies and music at Apple.

Option 2: Sell the reader both Tablets and dedicated eReaders. Then make money from everything – books, movies, music, apps.

There’s another aspect to Option 2. You’re adding a permanent mini-Store. You can, down the line, sell the user anything you and the user want.

It’s a no-brainer. Selling Tablets in addition to eReaders. Eventually, preferring to sell Tablets over eReaders.

Without Amazon & B&N focused on eReaders they will gradually stop evolving (not that they’re doing a very good job at the moment)

2007 – The First Kindle.

2012 – A Kindle with a built-in light, a touchscreen, and more clarity.

None of that is really very impressive.

Notice everything that’s missing: Color eInk, Flexible Screens, Unbreakable Screens, Video Support, Games Support.

eReaders were already evolving at a snail’s pace. Now that Amazon and B&N are focused on Tablets, where will the fire for eReader improvements come from?

Sony? (Please stop laughing. It’s a serious question.)

So we will see Kindle Fires and Nook Tablets get better and better. We will also see Nook eReaders and Kindle eReaders stagnate. This makes the contrast even sharper. Soon we’ll have eReaders that are stuck in 2008 (2009 if you’re generous) while Tablets zoom into 2013 and 2014.

Is the Inflection Point Past Us?

There was the first inflection point – when Nook Color did well. At that point the Nook eReader suddenly became B&N’s #2 Priority.

There was the second inflection point – when Kindle Fire did well. At that point, the Kindle became Amazon’s #2 Priority.

Amazon and B&N suddenly went from

Worldview 1: eReaders are going to replace paper. We will be selling hundreds of millions of eReaders per year.

to

Worldview 2: eReaders are going to be a niche market. Tablets will eventually replace paper and PCs. We will be selling hundreds of millions of Tablets per year.

We don’t know if either worldview is accurate. However, that’s the shift that happened in B&N’s thinking and Amazon’s thinking.

B&N saw the Nook Color as its future. Amazon saw Kindle Fire as its future.

Have we passed the inflection point of the death of eReaders. I don’t think so.

However, there are three things we can agree on -

  1. The single biggest threat to the Kindle is the Kindle Fire.
  2. The single biggest threat to the Nook is the Nook HD.
  3. eReaders have Tablets blocking their growth path to hundreds of millions of devices sold per year.

From Amazon and B&N’s perspective this is fine. They are exchanging a ‘one digital revenue stream’ device with a ‘multiple digital revenue streams’ device. They are also effectively safeguarding themselves from a world where they are made obsolete when it comes to digital products. However, for anyone who wants ‘dedicated reading devices’ to keep improving, this is sad and unfortunate. We are not going to see very many big advances in eReaders. We might even see them become a niche product and slowly die out.

Why are eReaders no longer the flavor of the month?

The Kindle is rumored to have sold 8 million units in 2010. You’d think that would make every company on Earth want to manufacture eReaders. Strangely, if CES 2011 is any indicator, most companies seem to have given up on eReaders.

Decline of interest in making eReaders – CES 2010 vs CES 2011

Here’s a post reviewing the eReaders of CES 2010. Here are some of the eReaders shown off last January (with updates on their status in 2011 included) -

  1. Mirasol. Mirasol is the star eReader at CES 2011 – just as it was the star eReader at CES 2010. The first Mirasol device is rumored to be the PocketBook Mirasol and it’s set to debut in Q3, 2011. Note that Mirasol powered eReaders were supposed to launch in 2010 itself – so that Q3, 2011 date isn’t a given.
  2. BeBook with Liquavista Color Display. No mention of it now. 
  3. PixelQi. Notion Ink’s Adam tablet with Pixel Qi display is available – It’s a Tablet rather than an eReader. No other devices with Pixel Qi at CES 2011.
  4. Alex Reader. Arrived and was rather good – didn’t make much impact. 
  5. Entouradge Edge. Arrived and was good but very expensive. Didn’t have much impact.
  6. Copia. Released a social platform instead of an eReader.
  7. MSI Dual Screen eReader. No idea what happened to this.
  8. Cool-er. Bankrupt now.
  9. Bookeen Orizon. No idea what happened to this.
  10. Samsung E6 Reader. This is set to release in the US soon.
  11. Aiptek Story Book.
  12. Fujitsu. Still only in Japan.
  13. Skiff. Closed down.
  14. 20 other generic readers. Most didn’t arrive.
  15. Acer and Asus had plans for eReaders. Morphed into Tablet Plans. Acer does have one eReader+eWriter set to launch in summer of 2011.

CES 2010 was all about eReaders. More importantly, it was about new companies jumping into the eReader market.

Contrast that with CES 2011 -

  1. Hanvon’s color eReader which won’t be released in the US.
  2. The two CES 2010 stars – Mirasol and Pixel Qi.
  3. iRiver’s Story HD.
  4. A few more. Just a few.

From 40 to 50 new eReaders at CES 2010, we’ve gone down to 10 or so at CES 2011. We have almost no new companies trying to release eReaders. Tablets have replaced eReaders as the flavor of the month.

Why has there been such a sharp decline in interest in making eReaders?

For all intents and purposes eReaders are doing great -

  1. Amazon has definitely sold millions of eReaders. It might have sold as many as 8 million eReaders in 2010.
  2. B&N is selling half a million Nook Color reading tablets a month.
  3. B&N has sold millions of Nooks.
  4. Every eBook store and app is talking about ‘millions’ of sales and ‘millions’ of customers.
  5. eBooks are 10% of the market now.

You have to wonder why there were 50 companies jumping into eReaders in January 2010, when just ‘millions’ of eReaders had been sold, and now there are close to zero companies jumping in – even though 10 million or more ereaders have been sold.

Why is everyone shunning the eReader market?

Here are possible reasons -

  1. Companies believe Tablets will kill eReaders.
  2. Companies feel Tablets are a much bigger market than eReaders – that Tablets could become as big as laptops, while eReaders will always be a 10-15 million eReaders sold a year market.
  3. There are not that many companies excited about eReaders – They find tablets more interesting.
  4. With Tablets, companies see an opportunity to compete on price. iPad at $499 means a lot of opportunity for lower priced tablets.
  5. Companies feel Amazon has wrapped up the market. That there’s a small 10 million eReaders a year market, and Amazon has most of it.
  6. They feel the major markets are US and UK, and those are very difficult to get into. With Tablets they feel there is more of an international market.
  7. Companies don’t feel they can compete with the trifecta of Kindle, Kindle Store, and Free WhisperNet.
  8. Companies don’t want to deal with Publishers. Can’t really blame them.
  9. Companies get a free Operating System they can use with their tablets – the ‘optimized for Tablets’ Android Honeycomb. Even more of an opportunity to cut prices. Note that there is no version of Android optimized for eReaders.

Whatever the reason, it’s pretty clear that companies have moved on from eReaders, and are fully focused on tablets in 2011.

Comparative sizes of eReader and Tablet markets

Apple supposedly sold 10 to 12 million Tablets in 2010. There weren’t really any other Tablets in the market.

Sales of 10 million or so iPads in 2010 might mean a lot of different things -

  1. That Apple got most of the market, and the actual market is 15 million Tablets sold a year.
  2. That Apple could barely produce enough to meet demand (as is claimed), and the actual market is 30 million tablets a year.
  3. 10 million iPads sold is just the tip of the iceberg, and the Tablet market is actually 100 million tablets a year.

Companies jumping into the Tablet market seem to believe one of the latter two possibilities.

In the eReader market, Amazon supposedly sold 5 to 8 million Kindles. B&N and Sony sold a million or more eReaders each. B&N sold a million reading tablets. Other eReader makers probably sold 1 or 2 million eReaders.

What might ’10 million eReaders sold in 2010′ mean?

  1. That the eReader market is already stable, and will stay at around 10 million eReaders sold per year.
  2. That the eReader market jumped from 4 million eReaders sold in 2009, to 10 million eReaders sold in 2010. That it will continue to boom, and will reach 20 to 30 million eReaders sold per year before it stabilizes.
  3. That 2010 eReader sales are just the tip of the iceberg, and that the eventual market will be one hundred million eReaders sold per year.

Most companies seem to believe the first possibility. Perhaps they believe 2. but feel they have no chance.

So, for some indecipherable reason, every company dabbling in eReaders has either assumed that eReaders will stop growing, or it has assumed that Amazon and B&N are unbeatable.

That seems rather defeatist.

It makes very little sense – In a year when every eReader company is claiming record sales, all other companies are running away from the eReader market, instead of towards it.

Dedicated eReaders vs Tablets, musings about specialization

There’s an almost constant stream of criticism directed at Kindle, Nook, and other dedicated reading devices. Underlying the criticism is the belief that any device which focuses on one task must be inherently inefficient.

The Kindle is assumed to have survived only because of its low price.

Just you wait – As soon as my darling Tablet gets reduced in price to $300 all the eReaders shall die out.

It’s quite strange.

Why is there such hate against devices that specialize in one task?

The same people who would only want a highly trained surgeon to operate on them, who would refuse to let a cook design their house, who wouldn’t board a plane piloted by a circus clown – are upset that a device is built to specialize in one thing.

How ridiculous that a device would do just one thing, and do that exceptionally well. It should instead do 5,000 things in an unexceptional manner.

It’s almost as if they want to find the device equivalent of the TV. Instead of people going out into the real world, and doing things they love, let them stay in and find artificial sustenance in their TVs. No matter what your interest – There’s a channel for that.

Instead of people buying specialized devices, that greatly increase their enjoyment of their favorite pursuits, let them all use one device which isn’t specialized for anything. Let’s take away the entire concept of specialized devices made solely for people who are very passionate about one particular activity. You don’t really require a device that’s perfect for your favorite activity – There’s an app for that.

3 devices that specialize in what they do

Bought a $99 PSP Go. Have no idea why. Perhaps because it was half price and came with $80 worth of games.

Bought a Kodak Zi8 – for taking videos of eReader screens.

Combine those two with the Kindle, and suddenly I’ve angered every Tablet worshipper in the world. According to the Tablet-Cult the iPhone or the iPad 2 with dual cameras should take care of all these things. It saves me from the infinite pain of owning three devices which each specialize, horror of horrors, in just one thing.

Except, you have to wonder – Do we want to minimize total number of devices, or do we want to maximize the joy our devices give us?

Has convenience become more important than quality of experience? Has being able to carry just one device become more important than the amount of pleasure we get from our devices?

  1. The Kodak Zi8 has a macro mode that’s invaluable for shooting close-ups of eInk screens. It’s also a great mini-camcorder. Do we really have to take low-quality video just so that we can tell people how few devices we carry?
  2. The PSP Go has some amazing games on it. 15 minutes of God of War is worth more than 5 hours of Angry Birds. Not to mention you get 4 hours and 45 minutes as a bonus. Do we have to give up on physical buttons and high quality games because carrying around an extra device might kill us?
  3. The Kindle is just a lot better for reading. If you aren’t LCD-compatible, and/or aren’t a member of the Tablet-Cult, you’ll get a lot more pleasure from reading on a device dedicated to reading. A device that is built just for people like you. Do we have to give up the only devices built for readers because there’s a golden rule that says you can never carry more than one device?

The whole argument is best illustrated by two games that deal with Vengeance.

Two types of Vengeance

The iPhone and iPad have Angry Birds. Here’s the back-story -

Green Pigs stole some eggs. Some flightless birds were, understandably, very attached to the eggs, and decided to wreak havoc on the green pigs by throwing themselves out of catapults. A tale of unbridled Vengeance.

There are various plot twists such as Green Pigs escaping using hot air balloons and the Pigs tricking the Birds by using cardboard cut-outs of eggs. It makes the most of poetic license without doing anything poetic.

The PS3 and PSP have God of War. Here’s the God of War back-story (courtesy Wikipedia) -

Kratos is a warrior serving the Greek Gods of Olympus. He used to serve Ares, the God of War, but Ares tried to make Kratos the ultimate warrior (free of earthly bonds) by tricking him into burning down a village in which Kratos’ wife and child had been placed. Kratos is overcome by what he has done. Then Athena tells him that if he murders Ares he’ll be forgiven for the murder of his family.

Kratos, through the course of the various God of War games, fights the Gods, allies with the Titans, fights the Titans, and goes through most of Greek mythology.

God of War isn’t a one-off. Another PSP game is Dante’s Inferno. It’s based on Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, and follows Dante through the nine circles of Hell.

We are supposed to throw away Greek Mythology and the Classics, and beautiful games built on those.

Why? So that we can instead embrace an inferior gaming experience? 

Stories about birds taking vengeance on pigs, and games revolving around feeding candy to pet monsters.

Catering to Lovers Vs Catering to Dilettantes

It’s the same story every time.

  1. We have the person who has a superficial knowledge of, and a cursory interest in, an art/area like photography or writing or reading or games.
  2. We have the other person who loves that art/area irrationally. Who’s spent countless hours mastering it and realizing the infinite beauty of it. Who’s understood the impossibility of ever knowing even 5% of all there is to know.
  3. The first person is bemused that the second person is buying a device that is built just for that one art/area.

It’s fine. 

A person who reads 10 minutes a week is free to think that a Tablet is the best device ever invented for reading. A person who plays games to kill the time is free to think Angry Birds is the best game ever made. A person who shoots 3 videos a year is entitled to his opinion that the iPhone has destroyed the camera and camcorder market, and that Cisco is crazy for buying Flip Inc.

However, where these three people make a mistake is that they assume that their cursory interest in an area makes them an expert. It is precisely their ignorance of the skill/art/area, which makes them feel so strongly that no specialized device is required. It’s knowing 0.01% of what there is to know which grants them the ability to assume they know 99% – not to mention their unshakeable belief that a specialized device is a mistake. 

Dedicated eReaders are going to be fine as long as people love reading

Dedicated eReaders are going to do well for the same reason Reading Tablets are going to do decently well – People who love to read want a device built for them.

Readers are amongst the smartest people. They have also never had devices built just for them. Dedicated eReaders and dedicated reading tablets are a special gift. Assuming that readers will turn their backs on dedicated reading devices is like assuming people who love photography will turn their backs on SLR cameras and lenses and Leicas and tripods and DSLRs.

If a critic doesn’t understand the irrational love felt by someone who is truly dedicated to a pursuit – then it’s easy to pretend it means nothing. To rationalize it away. However, that rationalization is only in the critic’s head. Reality is created by the person feeling the irrational love and acting on it.

A quote that says it best

Take this quote by Desiderius Erasmus -

“When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes”

If you find a person who doesn’t really read, and let him read this quote – to him, it will sound like a joke. At some level, he can’t understand the feeling captured by the quote. He can’t even imagine it. For him it’s an impossibility for anyone to value books more than clothes or food. In fact, he can’t even imagine people valuing books much.

Dedicated readers are made for the exact opposite kind of person. One who knows exactly what it feels like to value books more than food and clothes. One who has had at least a few times when she/he picked books over eating and sleeping and other meaningless things. 

There isn’t really a battle between dedicated eReaders and tablets. The battle is in the heads of people who don’t have a love of reading. For them, these strange inexplicable things exist, and do nothing except make reading better – which is such a terrible waste of a device. So, in their infinite kindness and infinite wisdom, they are trying their best to save us readers from what we love.

Paltry eReader lineup at CES 2011, eReaders vs Tablets

The Kindle and Nook Color have little to fear so far.

Mirasol’s Color eReader is mighty impressive – and not scheduled to release until Q3, 2011. Pixel Qi is pretty impressive too – except the lowest priced version of the Pixel Qi screen Adam tablet is $499.

Which means that until Q3, 2011, iPad 2 is the only real threat to Nook Color, and Nook 2 is the only real threat to Kindle 3. Apart from those two potential giants, there are just a couple of minor threats.

The Paltry line-up of eReaders at CES 2011

As compared to CES 2010, when there were dozens of eReaders being shown off, there are just a few eReaders being shown at CES 2011 -

  • The Eee Pad Memo is a very impressive eReader + eWriter – Except, it uses a LCD instead of eInk and is priced between $499 and $699.
  • iRiver has the new Story HD eReader – a 6″ eReader with 1024 by 768 screen resolution. It supports WiFi, and also supports ePub and PDF with Adobe DRM. It has 3 weeks of battery life. It’ll be available in Q2, 2011. Not really much of a threat.
  • Aluratek has its Libre Air eReader – an eReader with a 5″ reflective TFT LCD screen, WiFi, and a $130 price point. Hardly a threat.

If you’re counting, that’s 5 eReaders and eReader-threatening tablets in all of CES 2011. Two of those, Eee Pad Memo and Notion Ink Adam, are closer to Tablets than to eReaders, and priced at $499. Another 2 of those, iRiver Story HD and Aluratek Libre Air, aren’t much of a threat.

That means we have just one new eReader which is a danger to existing eReaders and Reading Tablets. That eReader, Mirasol, doesn’t arrive until Q3, 2011, and might turn out to be the Kindle 4 – which means Kindle would be in zero danger.

Thanks to Engadget for covering eReaders at CES 2011.

There’s so little happening with eReaders at CES 2011, we can’t even do an entire post. Let’s look at other eReader news.

B&N is beginning to beat Amazon in the Vagueness Contest

B&N issued a press release, on January 3rd, to announce that it had a great holiday quarter. It gave no specifics, and said that details would be released in a later January 6th press release. Until Amazon releases a press release that does nothing except announce a future press release, B&N’s Vaguest Press Release Crown is intact.

Well, it’s the 6th, and here are the details which unsurprisingly reveal nothing about Nook sales figures -

  1. 67% increase in total sales at BN.com, which were $228.5 million.
  2. 8.2% increase in total store sales, which were $1.1 billion.
  3. It sold ‘virtually its entire inventory’ of Nook Color and Nook devices. Which is 2 steps below ‘actually its entire inventory’, and 1 step below ‘not shipping outside US and UK’.
  4. December 23rd was the biggest sales day in the history of B&N. Probably had to do with last-minute Christmas shopping.
  5. Sales in B&N’s Toys & Games Department increased 48% during the holiday season.

On February 22nd, 2011, B&N will discuss in greater detail how it sold virtually its entire inventory of Nooks. It will also attempt to convincingly match Amazon’s habit of Earnings Call Vagueness by not releasing actual Nook sales figures.

One gem, courtesy Publishers Weekly -

B&N CEO William Lynch stated: “Nookcolor was one of the most sought-after gifts this holiday season and has quickly become the bestselling device at Barnes & Noble. 

… 60% of Nookcolor owners are new customers of our Barnes & Noble digital bookstore.”

That suggests at least 40% of the people buying Nook Colors are either using them as Android Tablets and not reading on them, or using Kobo for books, or are rooting them and using Kindle for Android.

Other B&N developments including B&N vs Borders

B&N released a Nook Kids app for the iPad with 100 interactive children’s books available at launch. It’s certainly covering all the bases when it comes to books for children.

B&N is also complaining about the special terms almost-bankrupt Borders is getting from Publishers. That’s interesting – so it’s suggesting that either Publishers give B&N better terms, or let Borders go bankrupt and make B&N super powerful.

Again, courtesy Publishers Weekly -

“We think the playing field should be even,” the B&N statement says.

“We expect publishers to offer same terms to all other booksellers, including Barnes & Noble and independent booksellers.  We fully expect publisher’s will require Borders to pay their bills on the same basis upon which all other booksellers pay theirs.

B&N is being a bit ruthless here. It sees an opportunity to hasten Borders’ slide  into bankruptcy, and is taking advantage.

Are Tablets a threat to eReaders?

With a million different Tablets being introduced, the question is bound to come up – Are all these Tablets a threat to eReaders?

It’s hard to say.

  1. For readers, an eReader will always come first.
  2. For readers who are LCD compatible, a Reading Tablet like Nook Color is very tempting.
  3. For casual readers, it depends on the Tablet. Nook Color is $249. The only three Tablet that look like serious contenders are iPad/iPad 2, Adam, and BlackBerry PlayBook. None of those are close to Nook Color’s $249 price.

Then you’re left with the old argument – ‘Get a device that does more than just read’. Yes, some people will prefer iPad 2 and the Playbook. However, not as many as you’d think.

Firstly, Kindle and Nook are cutting prices relentlessly. Secondly, Nook Color is capable of a lot.

Tablets might take 25% of the reading market. But dedicated eReaders and reading tablets are well-placed to keep the other 75% for themselves.

What about Tablets being a threat to Reading Tablets?

On the surface, there’s little difference. However, the Nook Color focuses you on reading. If you hack it into an Android Tablet, you’ll instantly realize what you’ve lost – that focus on reading. Which is the whole point of making a reading tablet.

So, again, Tablets aren’t really much of a threat to Reading Tablets. If you consider the target customers for a Reading Tablet to be a subset of the people who read 1 or 2 books a month, then the Nook Color is pretty safe.

The big threat to Nook Color will be a Kindle Tablet and color eReaders. General Tablets are not really a threat.

Kindle’s new Tablet rivals, Amazon invading Android via App Store

It seems the Kindle 3 will soon have to face a veritable army of Android powered Tablets.

Kindle vs Tablets – Tablets popping out of the woodwork

Here are the new Tablets the Kindle will soon have to compete against -

  1. Playbook from Black Berry.  Engadget has PlayBook photos and videos and it’s a pretty impressive sounding Tablet though it doesn’t arrive until 2011 -

    •7-inch LCD, 1024 x 600, WSVGA, capacitive touch screen with full multi-touch and gesture support
    • 1 GHz dual-core processor
    • Dual HD cameras (3 MP front facing, 5 MP rear facing), supports 1080p HD video recording
    • Wi-Fi – 802.11 a/b/g/n
    • Open, flexible application platform with support for WebKit/HTML-5, Adobe Flash Player 10.1, Adobe Mobile AIR, Adobe Reader, POSIX, OpenGL, Java
    • Ultra thin and portable:
    • Measures 5.1″x7.6″x0.4″ (130mm x 193mm x 10mm)
    • Weighs less than a pound (approximately 0.9 lb or 400g)

  2. Sharp Tablets named Galapagos (another totally ridiculous name choice, you can almost imagine the conversations - Wow, that’s cool. What is it? Ummm … it’s a Galapa-something). There’s a 5.5″ model and a 10.8″ model and Sharp insists on calling them eReaders. Sharp will first release them in Japan with a store that has 30,000 magazines, newspapers, and books. CrunchGear has lots of photos and videos of the Sharp Galapagos pretend-eReaders. Don’t miss the video with the super-smiley people.
  3. Kno told Wired that it’s creating a single-screen 14″ tablet  in addition to its dual screen behemoth. It’ll come with a touchscreen and a stylus and be released by end 2010 (as will Kno’s dual screen Tablet). Kno is targeting students and has already signed deals with McGraw Hill, Pearson, Wiley, and 1 other major textbook publisher.

These 3 Tablets add on to the 50,000 other Tablets and pretend-eReaders that are already set to launch in early 2011.

Why the Kindle will be competing with Tablets

Although it doesn’t make much sense to compare eReaders with Tablets the various Tablet manufacturers continue to do so. We see this with Sharp which insists on calling its Tablets ‘eReaders’.

It seems the eReader market and the rate at which it’s growing is absolutely irresistible and Tablet manufacturers aren’t smart enough to figure out that people want a device focused on reading as opposed to a device you can read on.

The net result is that Tablet manufacturers keep positioning their tablets as ‘eReaders that can do more than just read’.

It’s quite amusing that all these Tablets are being announced now when they don’t even arrive until 2011. It just shows how poorly prepared most companies are to take on the iPad or, for that matter, to steal a piece of the eReader market.

Amazon doing all it can to address the Tablet threat

Amazon is pretty serious about the threat Android powered Tablets pose and it’s doing a lot of things to guard itself and strike back.

Amazon announces Kindle for PlayBook

Amazon didn’t even wait for the dust to settle on the BlackBerry PlayBook announcement before releasing a Press Release saying that a Kindle App for the BlackBerry PlayBook will be released in the coming months.

That might be a bit of a problem given that the PlayBook itself isn’t coming out till 2011. It’d be quite amusing to have the Kindle App come out before the device.

Someone from HP was quoted as saying that he sees the Tablet Market turning into a $40 billion a year market. Which is probably why HP is going to wait until 2011 to finally release a Tablet – Might as well let Apple take over the entire market before we enter.

Amazon updates Kindle for Android

Crave Blog at CNet UK talks about the new additions to Kindle for Android -

  1. Search using either text or voice.  
  2. Add notes and highlights.  
  3. Lock the screen orientation. 
  4. Integration with Shelfari to offer book summaries, character information, and discussions. All from within Kindle for Android.

Basically, Amazon’s making sure that when people buy Android powered Tablets the best reading option for them is Kindle for Android. When you factor in ebook range, prices, and app features – it is.

These measures, however, pale against what might be Amazon’s stroke of genius.

Is Amazon building its own Android App Store?

The problem with the Android Market is it isn’t much of a store and it doesn’t seem very focused on selling.

Developers from lots of countries can’t sell their apps, there’s not much of an effort to manage the store or do quality control, and there’s not really much effort to stop piracy. It’s also not very easy or straightforward to pay for apps and the option to ‘return’ apps causes lots of problems.

It seems Amazon has decided its time to fix things.

At ListWare there are strong rumors that Amazon is building its own Android Store -

* Can’t say because I signed the NDA :). Looked legit to me but read the fine print; more restrictive than Android market.

* Is it a killer? Amazon has a global payment system, so it will reach most countries. Personally, I’d use Amazon over AndroidMarket, if the rating and comment system was any where near the quality Amazon has on their primary site.

* It is legit. Once you accept the NDA they will send you more info.

This would be a brilliant move – one of Machiavellian proportions.

You have a widely spreading, supposedly open, Mobile Operating System and Amazon could end up owning the most lucrative and powerful App Store on/for it.

Why Amazon building an Android App Store is pure genius

Well, consider the different aspects -

  1. In an open system the power of the default takes over.
  2. Google is assuming that it’ll be able to set its own offerings as the default (including Google Editions when it’s available).
  3. If Amazon can become the default App Store, one that is well done and does quality control and screens apps well, then it controls the defaults.
  4. It’s absolutely brilliant strategy. Take the Open System and mold it into what you want by controlling the starting point.
  5. Amazon’s App Store would keep out the low quality apps. It would ensure developers from any country can get paid. It would let people pay easily through their Amazon accounts or via other options.
  6. Amazon would leverage its customer experience to make sure the experience is great.
  7. It would kill the ‘returns’ policy and thus stop one way of pirating apps.
  8. It would be stricter about stopping piracy.
  9. Everyone already equates Amazon with trust and great customer service.

Amazon’s Android App Store would instantly become a better option than the Android Market – initially for Amazon customers and soon for everyone.

TechCrunch has a list of rumors/details

M. G. Siegler finally writes a good post (well, adding ‘finally’ might be a bit unfair but he does love to Kindle-hate) and ferrets out some details about the Amazon Android App Store -

For each sale of an App, we will pay you a royalty equal to the greater of 70% of the purchase price or 20% of the List Price as of the purchase date (70/30 is standard, this 20/80 split is somewhat odd and confusing).

It seems like if your app is available on other platforms, you have to make sure to update it at the same time on Amazon’s store that you do in any other store. (this will piss off a lot of developers).

Just from the first few details it’s obvious this is Amazon. The first requirement has to do with pricing the app at the same price as at other stores and the second requirement has to do with keeping apps as up to date in the Amazon Android App Store as they are on other platforms.

This is so similar to what Amazon has for its Kindle Store (for books) that you suspect they just copied the clauses.

There are a few other clauses – Apps will have to have Amazon DRM, Amazon can pull apps, Apps might be shown on Amazon.com, it’s US only.

Amazon might be building up the Kindle App Store and the Android App Store in parallel. They’re both based on Java and there must be lots and lots of similarities in developing, promoting, and maintaining each. What a clever move.

Most of the threat of Google Editions is Google’s ability to make it the ‘default’ reading app on Android. Well, if Amazon’s Android App Store becomes the de-facto Android App Store then Amazon could negate that advantage and perhaps even take over Android mobile retail.

Here are a series of comments from TechCrunch that illustrate why this is such a good move for Amazon -

Anonymity86: This could be really good. Nobody runs online stores like they do. They have quality reviews from an existing large community where people already have reputation scores. They have a top notch recommendation engine. You’ll have Amazon customer service behind you. This has a lot of potential

Daniel: +1 this could really help because the market (Android Market) simply sucks

Stefan: I agree. This would be an app store I’d like to try.

It would be rather ironic if Android became, in effect, a distribution channel for Amazon.

What a smart, smart move by Amazon. Plus a really good lesson for all the companies that think Open is a smart strategy – it’s only a smart strategy if you can get your competitor to open up their system while you keep yours closed (implicitly or explicitly).

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