Color Kindle closer than expected? New $199 8 GB Nook Tablet?

Color Kindle might be much closer than expected.

DigiTimes, which has a split personality (30% of the time Nostradamus, 70% of the time your local tavern drunkard prophesizing the 2012 Mayan apocalypse), makes three very bold Color Kindle claims -

  1. EInk (the maker of Kindle eInk displays) has won a big order to make 6″ color eInk Panels for Amazon (presumably for color eInk Readers or color eInk powered Tablets).
  2. The order is OVER 3 million screens a month.
  3. The shipments start in March 2012. Say what?

If Digitime is right (and that’s a big IIIIIIIIIIFFFFFFFFFF), it would mean Kindle 5 is the much awaited Color Kindle. That Amazon is confident enough in what they have to order 3 million screens a month.

 E Ink Holdings (EIH) reportedly has landed orders for 6-inch color e-book reader modules from Amazon with shipments to begin in March …

Shipments of the touched-enabled e-book reader modules are expected to top three million units a month, the paper said.

3 million shipments a month makes you wonder exactly what Amazon are using these screens for.

Do we have a color eInk Kindle eReader or a color eInk powered Kindle Tablet?

The size of the order i.e. 3 million screens a month, makes me think Amazon is planning on putting these color eInk screens into Tablets and changing the equation on Tablet battery life.

Reasons a color eInk powered Kindle Tablet makes sense:

  1. The battery life creates a huge competitive advantage. It also combines with low price and Amazon’s ecosystem to create a trifecta of hard-to-beat advantages. 
  2. Amazon really needs to do something to improve Kindle Fire. Right now it’s surviving on low price and Amazon’s brand.
  3. There has been talk all along that Kindle Fire 1 was a stop-gap measure – until the ‘real’ Kindle Tablet could be released. That makes sense – why would a company that built a Kindle from the ground-up just clone a Playbook to make the Kindle Fire?
  4. B&N is releasing an 8 GB Nook Tablet for $199 and might drop the Nook Color price to $179 or even $149. Amazon perhaps needs something NEW to compete. More on that below.
  5. Color eInk is a sufficiently cool technology to try and make it the centerpiece of a new Kindle Tablet offering.
  6. Amazon could just add it to the Kindle Fire/Kindle Tablet family. As another option.
  7. There’s something undeniably cool and convenient about a Tablet with a week of battery life.

Reasons a color eInk powered Kindle 5 eReader make sense:

  1. Color eInk probably isn’t up to scratch yet – how will it compete with LCDs?
  2. Color eInk allows Color Kindle to compete in textbooks and in comics and certain other areas.
  3. Color eInk removes one of the perceived ‘huge weaknesses’ of the eInk Kindles.
  4. Color eInk gives Amazon a jump over B&N and Sony and Kobo in the dedicated eReader market.
  5. Color eInk will appeal greatly to some casual readers.

Actually, there are enough points here to leave me in considerable confusion as to exactly what Amazon intends to do with these screens. I’d say – 75% chance we get a Color Kindle which is the first big technological jump in eReaders since someone realized you don’t have to put a touch layer under the glass. 25% chance Amazon has some magical and revolutionary new Kindle Tablet that makes perfect pancakes and outlasts the Energizer Bunny.

Regardless of whether it’s a Color Kindle or a Color eInk powered ThermoNuclear Kindle Tablet, it’s much-needed. Why?

B&N is taking the fight to Amazon with $199 8 GB Nook Tablet

Barnes and Noble is supposedly releasing a new Nook Tablet on Wednesday. The details on Nook Tablet from The Verge -

  1. Nook Tablet with 8 GB memory for $199. The current $249 model has 16 GB memory.
  2. Available at WalMart starting 12:01 am on February 22nd.
  3. Exact same as $249 Nook Tablet except 8GB memory instead of 16 GB.

This has obviously led to some speculation – 

  1. Nook Color price will drop. Yes, obviously. Perhaps to $179 or $149.
  2. Kindle Fire price will drop. Yes, obviously. Perhaps to $149.  
  3. Android Tablet sales will increase. Yes, obviously. It’s entirely logical to assume that people will buy more of a Tablet when it’s 20% to 25% cheaper.

The Nook Tablet is really, really good. Kindle Fire is good too. However, two of the main things that made Kindle Fire competitive with Nook Tablet (and probably outsell it by a 2.25:1 margin) were the $199 price and the Amazon brand/ecosystem.

If Nook Tablet comes in at $199, then it’s instantly the better tablet for anyone who doesn’t care about Amazon’s ecosystem and brand. Amazon will have no choice – it’ll have to drop Kindle Fire to $179 or $149. 

Perhaps just as disruptive will be B&N dropping the Nook Color to $179 or $149. As we go lower, the number of people able to buy a device increases exponentially. The $250 barrier, the $200 barrier, the $150 barrier, the magical and guillotine-wielding-revolutionary $100 barrier.

Kindle Fire is $199. The faster, hardware-volume-button-equipped, SD-card-slot-possessing Nook Tablet 8 GB will be $199. Nook Color will be $149 or $179.

The only solution for Amazon – Kindle Fire price drop to $179 or $149, new Color eInk powered Kindle Bonfire. Aah … the joys of Kindle Fire vs Nook Tablet competition.

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