Kindle 3 – Will Amazon release Kindle 3 in 2010?

What exactly are Amazon’s Kindle 3 plans? 

Well, Amazon’s actions at the end of 2009 and in early 2010 hint at some very interesting possibilities for the Kindle.

Amazon seems very wedded to Kindle 2

Let’s start with 5 things we know about Kindle 2 in 2010 -

  1. There’s a Kindle 2.5 upgrade with Folders, better PDF support, more fonts, and other goodies slated for end of May. 
  2. There’s a Kindle App Store scheduled for sometime in the future. Perhaps this year, perhaps early next year. The Beta is going on and since it’s based on Kindle 2 that hints at longevity for Kindle 2.
  3. Amazon has said there will be a Kindle software update with accessible menus and a supersize font in mid 2010.
  4. The ‘Kindle Apps for various devices and platforms’ page says Kindle Apps for other platforms will be arriving soon. 
  5. Amazon have said they will extend free Internet browsing internationally in 2010.

Basically, Amazon is continuing to do a lot for Kindle 2.

Next, let’s look back at what happened at the end of 2009 -

  1. Kindle 2 went international.
  2. Amazon added PDF support, screen rotation, and better battery life to the Kindle at the end of November 2009.
  3. Amazon matched the Nook’s $259 price.

This was mostly interpreted as a response to the Nook – an attempt to ensure a win during the Christmas Season. In retrospect it probably was also a sign that Amazon were focused on the Kindle 2 and that there was no Kindle 3 about to arrive.

The potential technology for a killer Kindle 3 is pretty far off

What are the possible killer features the Kindle 3 could have?

  1. Color – It’s end of the year for Mirasol and early 2011 for eInk. Both are optimistic estimates.
  2. Dual Mode – The first Pixel Qi device (Notion Ink Adam Tablet) will be out in Summer or Fall 2010. Amazon will probably let them work out all the kinks of Pixel Qi screens.
  3. Touch – Firstly, a touch screen solution for ereaders that doesn’t reduce readability hasn’t arrived in the market yet. Secondly, the Sony Reader has touch and touch hasn’t really shown itself to be a killer feature. Page Turns are better with buttons and notes are better with a physical keyboard.
  4. Flexible, unbreakable screens – We’ve been hearing about this for a long time (since early 2009). It’s over a year and no-one’s brought it to market yet.
  5. Folding Screen Design – Qualcomm has patented a three screen design (which may be for an eReader or Tablet) and something like Polymer Vision’s Readius would be cool. However, it’s not enough to carry a Kindle 3 release.
  6. Super fast eInk – For a much better reading experience. Even prototypes of eInk displayed aren’t super fast and it’s highly unlikely this will be ready in 2010.

If Amazon can get color ePaper by end 2010 then we should definitely expect a Kindle 3. However, getting reliable color ePaper technology by 2010 is a reach.

It really does seem that for a 2010 release Amazon could at best get the following into Kindle 3 -

  1. A tougher to break screen.
  2. Some sort of folding design.
  3. Some sort of touch.

These just aren’t as impressive as color. The combination might be enough to justify a Kindle 2.8 – However, Amazon need to make sure Kindle 3 is a home run.

Kindle 3 needs to be able to compete with Tablets

Kindle 2 does a good job at both reading and at offering a great value proposition.

However, tablets are going to get cheaper, become more open, and keep offering a better and better reading experience. Kindle 3 has to be exceptional to be able to take on the calibre of tablets we’ll have by end 2010 and early 2011.

Kindle 3 also needs to re-establish separation between Kindle and the other eReaders – Nook with its new browser, Nook 2, Sony Reader with whatever it gets in 2010.

For this holiday season we can draw up a rough Kindle 3 hitlist -

  1. Color eInk. 
  2. Faster screen refreshes.
  3. 2 out of Touch, Unbreakable screens, and Folding/Flexible screens.
  4. Working Kindle App Store. Lots of great apps related to reading.
  5. A re-establishment of cheaper ebook prices in the Kindle Store – Ending the Agency Model is probably the only way.
  6. Kindle Store keeps its status as the store with the most available new books.
  7. Better browser. 
  8. Kindle service continues to evolve and adds at least 2 significant new features.

Kindle 3 needs to have nearly all of these improvements to compete during this holiday season and in early 2011. We’re also assuming that the new, cool Kindle 2 features (Folders, better font support, social features) will be included in Kindle 3.

3 main possibilities for Kindle 3

This is obviously all guesswork - It seems that Amazon have 3 main windows for releasing Kindle 3 and for each there’s one strategy that makes the most sense.

Bridging the Gap – Kindle 2.75 in June or July 2010

This is very unlikely as it neither addresses the crucial Christmas Season nor does it deliver any killer features. However, there’s a slight chance Amazon releases Kindle 3 in June/July with a medley of smaller changes – faster screen refreshes, touchscreen, hard to break screen, and so forth.

The main advantage of an early Kindle 3 release is that Kindle 3 would probably be the undisputed best eReader for 3 or more months.

Probability of a June/July 2010 Kindle 3 release date: 10%.

All-out Christmas War – Kindle 3 in Fall 2010

The most probable Kindle 3 release scenario is a Kindle 3 in Fall that’s intended to win the Christmas Season for Amazon.

It would have color, a touchscreen that is unbreakable, additional very helpful features (that we don’t know about yet), a price in the $250 to $300 range, better font options, better accessibility, support for additional languages, and perhaps even a full-fledged App Store.

This would be a Kindle 3 that easily outpaces other eReaders and pretend-readers like Tablets. The big question here is whether one or both of Mirasol and eInk will be ready to deliver color ePaper in time for a fall 2010 kindle 3 release.

Probability of a Fall 2010 Kindle 3 release date: 60%. Mostly because Amazon is acutely aware of how important the Christmas Season is.

Waiting to polish up everything – Kindle 3.1 in Feb 2011

There’s a small possibility that Amazon decides to wait until color eInk is well and truly ready and releases Kindle 3 around two years after the Kindle 2 was released.

Amazon’s strategy would probably be -

  1. Use updates like 2.5 and most requested features like Folders and PDF support to make Kindle 2 more compelling.
  2. Do lots of software tweaks to improve performance.
  3. Perhaps release the Kindle App Store by Fall and see what developers add to the Kindle.
  4. Expand the Kindle service with additions similar to most popular highlights and WhisperSync.
  5. Expand the number of devices on which Kindle Apps are available. Make these apps more compelling.

In this case Amazon would be hoping that by improving the service and the software they can continue to keep the Kindle 2 competitive. It’d be a risky move and would only work if Nook 2 and the next generation of Sony Readers don’t push the bar much.

Probability of a Feb 2011 Kindle 3 release date: 30%.

October 19th, 2010 would be my best guess for a Kindle 3 release date. A color screen and a new Kindle design (2 or 3 foldable, unbreakable screens) would probably be the killer features.

Kindle 3 – Reviewing the Possibilities

CES has helped paint a picture of where ePaper and eReaders are and that helps review Kindle 3 possibilities –  

  • When might Kindle 3 be released?
  • What killer features might Kindle 3 have?

Let’s walk through the 3 main possibilities.

Kindle 3 – Reviewing a February Kindle 3 release

The first big possibility is that Kindle 3 comes out at the end of February, around a year after the Kindle 2 release date.

That would mean it has 3 or so of the killer features that eReaders launched at CES had -

  1. Flexible screen that is hard to break.
  2. Flexible, indestructible screen like Que or Skiff are promising.
  3. Touchscreen Type 1 - A touchscreen of the type the Sony Reader has, except without adversely impacting visibility. Samsung did this by placing the eInk above the touch layer.  
  4. Touchscreen Type 2 – Ability to write and draw with a lot of fidelity using Wacom technology or another advanced technology. This is unlikely as it adds to costs considerably.
  5. Social Features – Exactly what Copia are aiming for. Amazon would use its 40% stake in LibraryThing or its ownership of Shelfari.  
  6. Dual Screen Type 1 – Nook and Alex style with a smaller LCD to help with the eInk.
  7. Dual Screen Type 2 – Entourage Edge style with one eInk screen and one LCD screen and both full size.
  8. 3rd party apps - Txtr and Hearst Skiff will have this.
  9. 7″ screen as the standard.
  10. MicroSD card slot.
  11. Lower Prices – This wasn’t really present at CES so Amazon could really differentiate by dropping prices to $199.
  12. Much faster screen refreshes. To be fair Amazon has improved this a lot.

Touchscreen (the simple version, not the Wacom one), 7″ screen, and Flexible, unbreakable screen are the most likely additions. The price drop is somewhat likely too.

We will probably also see additional features and upgrades to the Kindle service (probably over half of these) –  

  1. Speech to Text. Perhaps not a killer feature, just a good addition to text to speech.
  2. Ability to change which font is used and the boldness of the font.
  3. Folders – It’s supposed to be mid 2010 and a surprise would be nice.  
  4. Accessible Mode – SuperSize Font and Read To Me Menus.
  5. Better keyboard or a move to an on-screen haptic keyboard.
  6. Support for Library Books.

We’d be talking about a Kindle 3 that was more of a Kindle 2.3. Evolutionary and not revolutionary and one that puts significant distance between itself and the Nook.

Probability: 75%. Amazon does need to respond to Nook and the slew of new eReaders. It might also have an Apple iSlate to contend with. A February Kindle 3 release date is very probable.

Kindle 3 – A Summer, Pixel Qi powered Kindle 3 

This is perhaps the most intriguing possibility.

There’s a good chance that Amazon decide it’s worth delaying the Kindle 3 release to May or June 2010 as long as they can deliver a color Kindle.

We would probably see -

  1. A Kindle 3 powered by Pixel Qi’s magic screen. 
  2. A screen that is unbreakable or really hard to break.
  3. Kindle transition from a 6″ to a 7″ screen.
  4. The keyboard removed to keep the size of the Kindle the same.  
  5. Some sort of touch and writing support.  
  6. Faster screen refreshes due to it being a Pixel Qi screen.

In this case the Pixel Qi screen would mean the price stays around $250. 

Probability: 25%. Kindle 3 powered by Pixel Qi and releasing in the summer is a very intriguing prospect. However, it sets Kindle 3 up for failure in the holiday season. Amazon might do this to respond to the Apple iSlate even though it’s not the best move.

If Kindle 3 could have Pixel Qi screens and also release in Feb 2010 – that would be a killer combination.

Kindle 3 – Reviewing a Mirasol powered Kindle 3 that arrives Fall 2010

If Amazon put their focus on having the very best possible Kindle for holiday season then Mirasol might be their only option. 

Let’s disregard the slight chance that eInk deliver a color eInk screen by Fall 2010 and assume that the best color ePaper available in 2010 is Mirasol.

In that case, we would see - 

  1. Kindle 3 powered by Mirasol color ePaper. 
  2. 7″ or 6″ screen with touch capabilities (touch layer below eInk) and support for writing.
  3. Flexible and almost unbreakable screen.
  4. Speech to Text.
  5. Ability to change the font (not just the size) and to bold the font.
  6. Support for Video.
  7. Support for vooks and digital books.  

We might also see a new addition to the Kindle family - a device capable of and tailored to consuming multiple content types.   

Probability: 75%. Amazon needs a color Kindle for this holiday season and a color Kindle they will have.

Closing Thought – Will 2010 see both Kindle 3 and Kindle 4?

You have to wonder if 2010 will see two separate Kindle releases.

Could we see a flexible Kindle 3 that supports writing released in February 2010 and a color Kindle 4 released in October?

  1. The Apple iSlate is looming and the Nook has almost caught up.
  2. Amazon need a strong Kindle release early in the year to stay in front (or keep pace).
  3. At the same time the multiple color eReader technologies i.e. Mirasol, Liquavista, Pixel Qi mean that there will be color eReaders out this year.
  4. Amazon will need a color eReader by holiday season to compete.

All signs point to two Kindle releases this year - a Kindle 3 release in February 2010 and a Kindle 4 release in October 2010.

In the year of the eReader the only way for Amazon to keep pole position is to ramp up their product cycle and release both Kindle 3 and Kindle 4.

Kindle 3, Worst Week to Buy a Kindle

There’s a rather cryptic/interesting comment from Jake A. who claims to know about the Kindle 3 release date (my stance is obviously in favor of what he’s saying) -

Switch11 is right. Kindle 3 will come out in November.

I know it isn’t too creditable coming from a random poster on the internet so don’t believe me if you don’t want to.

But I do have inside information (from a family member who works for Amazon) that it is scheduled for a release in the first or second week of november as long as production estimates continue on pace.

Supposedly, Amazon has been planning on a release all along in November. They bumped up production awhile ago after hearing of the new Sony Daily Reader coming out for the holiday season. Amazon has been ahead of everyone with their eReaders up to now. Don’t think they have fallen behind now.

I suspect leaks / rumors will begin to float around in a few days. Anyway, you don’t have to take me at my word, but maybe you should at least reconsider waiting a week or two before buying a Nook or Kindle.

Regards,

Jake A.

He actually does have a great point about waiting before buying a Kindle or Nook (even if Kindle 3 release is not in November).

Here’s Why -

Nov 1st to Dec 31st purchases can be returned until Jan 31, 2010

Check out the Amazon Page on Holiday Returns Policy -

We understand that many customers like to order holiday gifts early, so we have extended our returns period for the holidays.

Items sold by Amazon.com and shipped between November 1 and December 31, 2009, may be returned until January 31, 2010 for a full refund, subject to our other return guidelines listed below.

In 5 days, Amazon’s Holiday Period starts – which means delaying until November 1st makes perfect sense.

Last year, Amazon had a kindle coupon from October 24th through Nov 1st. That was to go with Oprah Kindle.

This year there’s a $20 price cut. Perhaps a Kindle Coupon might get thrown in – though it’s unlikely.

In Conclusion – Kindle 3 may or may not release in November 2009.

Wait to buy an eReader for a week anyways. November 1st onwards – you’re safe for 3 months.

Amazon’s Kindle 3 for US, Kindle 2 for the world policy

Amazon’s Kindle strategy will be -

  1. Amazon will have a Kindle International that it ships worldwide. This is the new consolidated Kindle 2.
  2. For the US, the level of competition will force it to release a Kindle 3. Perhaps they planned a 2 year anniversary release anyways.

The competition is stronger -

  1. The Nook ties the Kindle 2 (although every day its value keeps going down as you hear that publishers are turning off LendMe for their books).
  2. Sony Reader Daily Edition will have Library Finder and wireless downloads.

Plus the competition has the advantage of retail outlets. There’s no way Amazon messes up two holiday seasons in a row.

Kindle 3 is around the corner – and you heard it here first.

Kindle 3 release – Feb 2010?

November 23rd Update: I was wrong. There has been no Kindle 3 release – the Kindle 2 at $259 with free Internet is your best option for the year. Amazon also just added PDF support to the Kindle.

Nook and Sony Reader Digital Edition are both sold out – making the Kindle 2 the only wireless eReader available this year.

Kindle 3 will probably come out in Feb 2010. Thanks to the commenters for pointing out the Kindle 3 release didn’t happen.

My Kindle 3 Release Date Estimates from August were -

60% chance of an October 2009 Kindle 3 release, and a 75% chance its November 2009.

75% chance Feb 2009 Kindle 3 Release Date, and 80% chance March 2009 Kindle 3 Release Date.

Also -

If Apple releases a very impressive iReader or Sony’s wireless solution is really good, then Amazon will release Kindle 3 before the holiday season.

Amazon didn’t do that. Luckily for them Nook got sold out.

Well, Barnes & Noble (of all people) have released a very impressive eReader and Amazon has to respond.

Do we really think a $20 price cut on the global kindle is going to get the job done?

Why does Amazon need to make a big move and release Kindle 3 soon?

Firstly: There might never be another Holiday Season like this one.

  • No Apple iReader (not as yet).
  • No Plastic Logic.
  • Only a few dangerous rivals (Sony, BN).
  • Only one eReader, the Nook, that is an equal (and it doesn’t arrive until end of November).
  • Sony Daily Edition doesn’t arrive until December.
  • No Google Editions Store yet.

It’s a great time to release a killer Kindle 3.

Secondly: Nook has stolen the spotlight.

Nook’s feature list reads like a list of Top 5 Kindle Complaints -

PDF, Memory Card, touchscreen, sharing, etc.

Bringing it into a tie with the Kindle.

To make things worse newspaper articles comparing Nook and Amazon make pro-Nook mistakes -

  1. They don’t mention Kindle has Free Internet. 
  2. They mention Free WiFi in BN stores and WiFi capability for Nook without mentioning there is no browser.
  3. They fall for the ‘open’ argument even though all B&N books will have DRM.  

The main stream newspapers and blogs are so excited they are making up B&N advantages.

Basically, Nook is the flavor of the month.

Amazon have to steal back the attention - they don’t have any retail presence so they absolutely have to win the online and offline press coverage war.

Amazon have enough time to get out a Kindle 3 that blows away the competition

There are 5 weeks left. Amazon knows what they face in the Daily Edition. They know what they face in the Nook.

More than enough time to hurry up the Kindle 3, add some software features, and start taking preorders. Here are obvious Kindle 3 Features -

  1. Keep it sub $300, ideally close to $270. 
  2. Get the same Sharing Terms that B&N got. Unless it involves higher ebook prices. 
  3. Add PDF Support. Perhaps even ePub.  
  4. Add some good software features i.e. things like Folders and Tagging. 
  5. Perhaps add a touch-screen or some new advance in eInk (flexible, hard to break screens). 
  6. Consider adding a memory card or extra on-board memory.

If Kindle 3 doesn’t come out all Amazon have left is a Kindle 2 Coupon for $50 off. That might not be enough.  

Prediction: Kindle 3 Release Announcement in 1-2 weeks, Arrives in 3-4 weeks.

Very soon after the Holiday return period starts i.e. first week of November, Amazon will probably have a Kindle 3 announcement (including Kindle 3 preorders). Kindle 3 ought to start shipping 2 to 3 weeks after that.

That would be a fitting response to not only the Nook but also to Sony’s Wireless Digital Edition.

Perhaps most importantly it gives the press something to fawn over and captures people’s imagination.

 The Reasons for My Kindle 3 Prediction:

  • The competition factor and Nook factor discussed above.
  • Amazon’s Holiday Return Period Starts November 1st. It then lasts 3 months making a December or January release of Kindle 3 almost impossible. So it’s either now or Feb 2010.
  • There’s a chance that the Kindle 2 was actually delayed last year (as TechCrunch claim). Plus this November is 2 years after Kindle 1.
  • Look at this year’s releases: Kindle 2 in Feb, Kindle DX in June, Kindle International in October. Those are quick releases.
  • Regardless of whether we assume Kindle 3 was scheduled for this holiday season or February 2010, it would be possible to hurry it up. There are still 5 weeks.
  • Plus, Amazon haven’t done a big Press Conference or anything for the International Kindle. Perhaps they’re saving all their marketing and PR muscle for a BIGGER announcement.

Mr. Bezos must have lined up another big Oprah Kindle announcement (don’t think Obama Kindle is realistic).

Whatever Amazon’s trump card for this Holiday Season is, it hasn’t been played yet. 

The international kindle didn’t even get a Press Conference.

Kindle 3 would fit the bill perfectly - Mr. Bezos going on Oprah’s Show and unveiling Kindle 3.

Kindle 3 Release Date Estimate

Amazon’s official stance on the Kindle 3 release date is ‘not in 2010′.

What they really mean is -

If Apple releases a very impressive iReader or Sony’s wireless solution is really good, then we’ll hurry up our release date for the Kindle 3 and release it before the holiday season.

Else, there will be no Kindle 3 in 2010.

You have to just look at the hurried up Kindle DX release and the subsequent sell-out.

Amazon will definitely release Kindle 3 this holiday season if it sees any chance of losing out to Apple or Sony – even if it means being out of stock for large  periods.

Kindle 3 Release Date Probability Chart

Here’s a basic chart with Kindle 3 Release Date estimates -

Kindle 3 Release Date - Either November 2009 or Feb 2010

Kindle 3 Release Date - Either November 2009 or Feb 2010

Reasons Kindle 3 Release Date might be Nov 2009

Kindle 3 release in November of this year becomes much more likely if one or more of the following happen -

  1. Apple releases an iReader in September or October. 
  2. Sony’s WhisperNet rival is a strong one and Amazon starts seeing Sony’s Touch 600 stealing some sales.  
  3. Amazon sees the opportunity to consolidate its lead this holiday season.
  4. We start seeing an economic recovery.

November would also be exactly 2 years after the release of the Kindle 1, and set up Amazon to cash in on this year’s Holiday season.

The strongest sign that Kindle 3 will be out this holiday season is the hurried release of the Kindle DX and the amount of competition entering the market.

Amazon will almost certainly deny a release this year as there are few benefits and a lot of negatives to revealing this information early.

Reasons Kindle 3 Release Date might be Feb 2010

Apart from the fact that a Kindle 3 release date in Feb 2010 lines up very neatly with this year’s February Kindle 2 release, here are the reasons Kindle 3 will almost certainly be out by Feb 2010 -

  1. Apple’s iReader will almost certainly be out.  
  2. Plastic Logic’s eReader will almost certainly be out.  
  3. Sony’s 600 reader would have begun to get some traction.
  4. It would have been a year since the Kindle 2′s release and kindle owners’ appetite for upgrading their Kindle would be high.
  5. Technology would have improved enough to aim for lower prices or more features at the same price.
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