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 -
- There’s a Kindle 2.5 upgrade with Folders, better PDF support, more fonts, and other goodies slated for end of May.
- 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.
- Amazon has said there will be a Kindle software update with accessible menus and a supersize font in mid 2010.
- The ‘Kindle Apps for various devices and platforms’ page says Kindle Apps for other platforms will be arriving soon.
- 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 -
- Kindle 2 went international.
- Amazon added PDF support, screen rotation, and better battery life to the Kindle at the end of November 2009.
- 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?
- Color – It’s end of the year for Mirasol and early 2011 for eInk. Both are optimistic estimates.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 -
- A tougher to break screen.
- Some sort of folding design.
- 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 -
- Color eInk.
- Faster screen refreshes.
- 2 out of Touch, Unbreakable screens, and Folding/Flexible screens.
- Working Kindle App Store. Lots of great apps related to reading.
- A re-establishment of cheaper ebook prices in the Kindle Store – Ending the Agency Model is probably the only way.
- Kindle Store keeps its status as the store with the most available new books.
- Better browser.
- 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 -
- Use updates like 2.5 and most requested features like Folders and PDF support to make Kindle 2 more compelling.
- Do lots of software tweaks to improve performance.
- Perhaps release the Kindle App Store by Fall and see what developers add to the Kindle.
- Expand the Kindle service with additions similar to most popular highlights and WhisperSync.
- 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.