Kindle DX 3, Kindle DX WiFi release date predictions

We had news about the Kindle 3 yesterday from eInk maker eInk/PVI – focused mostly around how the lower prices of Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi will lead to lots of sales and perhaps to even lower prices.   

There was also talk of two new touch screen technologies –

  1. A capacitive touch eInk screen that is being evaluated by clients.
  2. An electromagnetic touch eInk screen that is also being evaluated by clients.

This is interesting for a number of reasons.

Touch capable eInk Screens would be perfect for Kindle DX 3

DigiTimes had the news about the touch capable eInk screens and mentioned a potential end 2010/early 2011 release for products with these touchscreens

The EPDs are currently being validated by clients, and the company expects products featuring the new panels will hit the market by the end of 2010 or at the beginning of 2011, he said.

The first thing that comes to mind is a Kindle 4 or a Kindle DX 3. The Kindle DX 3 is a much likelier candidate for a number of reasons –

  1. Kindle DX has been positioned as a Kindle for college students and Kindle DX 3 having touch and perhaps even handwriting capabilities would make perfect sense.  
  2. Kindle DX 2, as opposed to Kindle 3, is a very incremental release – It doesn’t have WiFi and the only killer update it has is the eInk screen (to be fair the graphite casing and lower price are good additions too – just not game changers).  
  3. DigiTimes is claiming that Kindle DX 2 is selling 3 times as fast as Kindle DX was selling. If that’s true Amazon is likely to focus a little more than it has on the Kindle DX line and Kindle DX 3 arriving by early 2011 becomes a possibility.
  4. Kindle 3 is a huge jump from Kindle 2. A Kindle 4 release that is an equivalent jump would be hard to do with just touch alone. It’s also not needed as much as a solid new Kindle DX 3 release is.
  5. Kindle 3 is for reading books (as opposed to marking up textbooks) and that doesn’t really need touch.

While the Kindle 3 looks like it could make it all the way to the middle of 2011 the Kindle DX 2 looks a lot like a stop-gap measure (like the Kindle 2 International was). It just screams – ‘Intermediate model to tide people over until the impressive new version is out’.

That’s one Kindle DX product path – that Amazon has a super impressive Kindle DX 3 with touch and lots of other improvements that it’s planning to launch in early to mid 2011. 

The other Kindle DX product path that seems likely is a Kindle DX WiFi.

Kindle DX WiFi in 2010 is quite likely

The release of Kindle WiFi and the amount of publicity and buzz it has created (notice how the Press talk mostly about Kindle WiFi and its $139 price) must have helped stress the importance of price to Amazon. As must have the tripling of sales of Kindle DX when the DX 2 came in at a more reasonable $379 price.

We now get a lot of conditions that make the release of the Kindle DX WiFi a good move –

  1. Amazon switching over to a WiFi model with the 6″ eReaders. It sets a precedent and makes it likelier it wouldn’t hesitate to release a Kindle DX WiFi.
  2. Kindle WiFi buzz and (almost certain) sales success. 
  3. Scaling up of production facilities for Kindle DX 2 and the larger eInk screen. Amazon might finally be able to hit economies of scale here and really lower prices.  
  4. The pricing pressure Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi put on Kindle DX 2.
  5. Most of the larger screen eReader companies leaving the market. Amazon must feel now is the time to really clean up and what better way than with a $275 Kindle DX WiFi.

There’s currently a big hole in the Kindle product line-up with a jump from the $189 Kindle 3 to the $379 Kindle DX 2. It’s pretty obvious that a Kindle DX WiFi would fit in perfectly.

Predicting Kindle DX WiFi Release Date, Features 

Here’s my prediction for the Kindle DX WiFi –

  1. Kindle DX WiFi Price: Between $250 and $279.
  2. Kindle DX WiFi Release Date: October or November 2010.
  3. Key Features: WiFi, eInk Pearl Screen, re-designed hardware, all the software improvements that went into Kindle 3.
  4. Most Significant Features: Much lower weight, Much lower price.
  5. Target Market: Newspaper, PDF, and magazine readers. Low vision readers.
  6. Targeted Rivals: Larger screen Sony Reader, Larger screen eReaders, and to an extent Tablets.
  7. Cannibalization of Kindle DX 2 sales: Yes, to an extent.
  8. Cannibalization of Kindle 3 sales, Yes, to a smaller extent.
  9. Microphone features introduced: Unlikely. If Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi have already gotten these then yes – otherwise highly unlikely.

Will it sell? Yes, a lot.

The price drop from $489 to $379 (with the Kindle DX 2) and the new eInk Pearl screen led to a tripling of sales (which are probably still low) and the Kindle DX WiFi would appeal to far more readers. We’ll probably see a doubling or tripling from current Kindle DX 2 sales. Note that current DX 2 sales are likely to have been hit heavily by Kindle 3 so it’s not that Kindle DX sales will be 9 times what they were with Kindle DX 1 – perhaps more like 4 to 5 times.

Predicting Kindle DX 3 Release Date, Features

The Kindle DX 3 is going to a pivotal release. Microsoft’s belief is that it takes until the third release of a product to get it right (Kindle 3 certainly seems to validate that belief) and the Kindle DX 3 might really deliver –

  1. Kindle DX 3 Price: $299.
  2. Kindle DX 3 Release Date: Feb 2011 to May 2011.
  3. Key Features: Touch, Handwriting recognition, eInk Pearl Screen with touch not affecting screen contrast or readability much, microphone features including voice notes and voice commands, choice of 3G and WiFi in one model, page turn buttons on both sides. It’s also possible that Amazon introduces a new way of taking notes.
  4. Most Significant Features: eReader plus eWriter. Very low weight. An actual device students can use. Beefed up textbook selection.
  5. Bonus Feature: It’s possible that Amazon figures out how to make the screen unbreakable or very hard to break using flexible eInk screen technology.
  6. Targeted at: Students, People who want an eWriter+eReader.
  7. Rivals: By that time probably the larger screen Sony Reader, the iPad (as a device for students), and perhaps Que 2 (hey, who knows).

Kindle 3 has 5 to 10 new killer features and another 5-10 solid improvements over Kindle 2. Given that Kindle DX 2 has just 3 significant improvements (only one of which, the eInk Pearl screen, is a killer feature) it leaves a lot of room for Kindle DX 3 to be a hugely improved release.

Just the addition of WiFi and all the Kindle 3 software improvements would make Kindle DX 3 a big jump. However, Amazon probably has some big things planned and my money would be on a combination of touch, much lower weight, significantly lower price, and a wide selection of textbooks.

The release of the Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi has shown that Amazon is very serious about winning the eReader wars and the Kindle DX 3 and the Kindle DX WiFi are likely to confirm that. Kindle DX 2, despite the brilliant eInk Pearl screen, seems to be a pretty placeholder – holding the fort until Kindle DX 3 arrives.

Kindle DX 2 feature-set is very puzzling

Now that the Kindle 3 is available with all its improvements the Kindle DX 2 suddenly looks strangely out-of-place. You have to wonder why Amazon would release it at the time it did (very early July) and with the feature-set it did (only 3 big improvements – eInk Pearl screen, graphite casing, lower price).

Just finished a rough Kindle WiFi or Kindle 3 or Kindle DX 2 comparison and the part that was totally inexplicable was that a lot of Kindle 3 improvements didn’t make it to Kindle DX 2.

Kindle 3 and Kindle DX 2 feature-sets are too far apart for products released 2 months apart

Let’s start with the Kindle 3 hardware improvements and what might be hardware related –

  1. WiFi. Why doesn’t the Kindle DX 2 have WiFi?  
  2. Up to 1 month of battery life on the Kindle 3. For DX 2 this is 2 to 3 weeks. With wireless on it’s 10 days versus 7 days.
  3. 20% faster page turns due to some sort of tuning.  
  4. Improved screen contrast (over what the eInk Pearl screen brings) due to tweaks and tuning.
  5. New quieter page turn buttons. Re-arranged buttons.

Most, if not all, of these are improvements Amazon must have figured out a long time ago.

Why produce the Kindle DX 2 without these? 

Take the WiFi and the quieter page turn buttons – For people who don’t get AT&T reception or those who read a lot in bed these are a big deal. Yet, for some strange reason, the DX 2 doesn’t have them.

Things get even stranger when we look at Kindle 3 software improvements

Perhaps we can explain away some of the hardware improvements. However, how do we explain this long list of software improvements that are missing from Kindle DX 2 –

  1. Choice of 3 Fonts.
  2. CJK Font Support, Cyrillic Font Support.  
  3. Better PDF support. 
  4. New WebKit Browser. 
  5. More words per page. By removing the top bar and moving the progress bar to the very bottom of the screen (thanks to Atom for noticing that).
  6. Voice Guide and hence full accessibility.
  7. Lots of smaller improvements – View Downloads Progress, Set Time Manually, Better Progress Bar inside books.

Note that the faster page turns, screen contrast improvements, and battery life may be software based too. There’s no way all these software improvements were done in just 2 months. That must mean a conscious decision to introduce them in Kindle 3 first – Why?

The saving grace is that Amazon could add these to the Kindle DX 2 fairly quickly. Adding all these improvements to Kindle DX 2 really is the right thing to do. DX 2 owners paid more than double what Kindle 3 owners will be paying.

Is Kindle DX 3 on the way? Why is Amazon behaving as if Kindle DX 2 is the less expensive Kindle?

When the Kindle DX first arrived there was little doubt it was the higher end Kindle – It was expensive, it had a larger screen, it had PDF support, it had an accelerometer, it had screen rotation. You paid the $489 premium and received things that the Kindle didn’t have.

When the Nook arrived with PDF support Amazon was forced to add PDF support to the Kindle and cuts its price. However, nothing was added to the Kindle DX 2 to compensate and its price wasn’t cut either.

Now things are even more extreme – the Kindle DX 2 is double the price of the Kindle 3 and has less than half the improvements. You saw the list above – It’s almost as if Amazon is trying to see how low they can take the DX 2 on value for money (especially when compared with Kindle WiFi). 

 Where’s the DX 2 value proposition? Is there a new Kindle DX WiFi? A Kindle DX 3?

There are a few possible reasons why the DX 2 has been left behind –

  1. Amazon plans on adding software upgrades to Kindle DX 2 a few months after Kindle 3 is out – that would certainly reduce the value gap between Kindle 3 and Kindle DX 2.  
  2. There’s a new, cheap Kindle DX WiFi in the works – perhaps for around $250. At that time software improvements added in Kindle DX WiFi will be added to Kindle DX 2.  
  3. Kindle DX 2 is just a lower priority. Perhaps the market for large screen, expensive eReaders just isn’t that big. Kindles have always sold a lot more than Kindle DXes and perhaps that’s continuing.
  4. Amazon hasn’t achieved economies of scale. A screen with 2.5 times the surface area is going to be much more expensive to produce (higher chance of defects). If the numbers are low then you can’t really scale up and everything from the screen to the body to the chips cost more.
  5. Amazon might be consciously positioning the Kindle DX 2 as the high-end eReader. Perhaps the higher price is a filter.
  6. Perhaps Amazon sees the DX 2 as an education eReader and wants to keep it at that price to account for later additions like touch screens and color.  
  7. Amazon wants a device that competes with the iPad as a large screen eReader. They don’t want to cut the price too much. They might want to kill off the Kindle vs iPad comparisons but keep the Kindle DX vs iPad comparisons.

The likeliest possibility is that Amazon hasn’t hit economies of scale and that the software upgrades will be added a few months after Kindle 3 is released. Perhaps Amazon feels that it needs to ‘save up’ all these improvements for Kindle 3 so that the Kindle 3 seems truly extraordinary with a bunch of improvements no other eReader has.

Amazon is free to play whatever positioning games it wants to play – Let’s just hope it gets all the Kindle 3 software features it can into Kindle DX 2 a month or two after Kindle 3 ships.