Amazon appears ready to release its new tablet, hailed by some observers as a legitimate threat to Apple's global-leading iPad.
Amazon's PR firm sent an invitation to journalists Friday afternoon announcing a press conference in New York City on Sept. 28, when the company is expected to reveal its new consumer tech weapon -- the Kindle tablet. But while the tablet hasn't been revealed publicly yet, it is apparently quite real -- seen by one tech journalist already, along with strong hints made by Amazon in recent weeks.
Wednesday is tablet day, BGC Partners Analyst Colin Gillis told Reuters.
In a matter of days, we should all get a good look, but already we've got some very good ideas to go on. Thus, here are five things to know about the new Amazon tablet, apparently set for October release:
1) Amazon's first tablet will likely have a 7-inch backlit, multi-color touchscreen. The new tablet will run on a specialized, altered version of Google's Android operating system, and apps will be ready and waiting at Amazon's Android App Store. Amazon will likely release a 10.1-inch version of the tablet in the first quarter of 2012, following the release of its 7-inch tablet with a bigger, somewhat more expensive version.
Some say the smaller screen size will make Amazon's new tablet more of a direct competitor against Barnes and Noble's Nook Color than against Apple's iPad, which has a larger screen size. But if the tablet is smaller and weighs less, it will be easier to carry on-the-go than the iPad, perhaps giving it an advantage, since most consumers like to take their tablets along with them throughout the day.
2) Amazon's tablet will be cheap -- likely $250. The company will sell its new tablet as a loss leader in terms of hardware costs, so the company can launch it as an immediate competitor to Apple's iPad and avoid the fate of the doomed HP TouchPad. That's how Amazon launched the Kindle several years ago, losing money on hardware at first while it grabbed customers and got the cost down.
Meanwhile, Kindle customers did just what Amazon wanted them to do -- they boosted Amazon's content sales, easily making the company the ebooks industry leader.
That means -- get ready consumers -- a new tablet deal is just around the corner. Industry analysts say Amazon's first tablet will be priced below $300, with a likely entry price point of $250. That's half the cost of the entry-level iPad, which sells for $499.
Knowing Amazon, it is likely to be a very aggressive price, Gillis said.
3) Amazon tablet buyers will get a Prime content deal. The tablet will be optimized for Kindle ebooks, and ready for point-and-click enhanced shopping experiences at Amazon.com, which also includes downloadable and streaming movies.
The company's primary ambition: signing up new customers for Amazon Prime, its membership service. Think Netflix, iTunes, Apple's App Store and Wal-Mart (online, of course) combined into one provider for the lowest prices, since that's where Amazon wants to get big, fast.
Amazon has been adding movie and TV show content for its Prime members -- who pay an annual membership fee -- rivaling streaming video subscription service Netflix. By bundling Prime services with its new tablet, the company can lower costs on its hardware, while gaining a competitive edge against Apple and other competitors by signing up more customers for its subscription service.
4) The initial version is expected to be Wi-Fi only, running on Amazon's specially designed version of Google's Android operating system. TechCrunch's MG Seigler wrote earlier this month that he had seen a version of Amazon's tablet and played with it. He said it's called the Amazon Kindle.
Seigler also said the device is nothing like the Android devices that consumers are used to seeing.
The interface is all Amazon and Kindle, he wrote. It's black, dark blue, and a bunch of orange. The main screen is a carousel that looks like Cover Flow in iTunes which displays all the content you have on the device.
5) Amazon's new Web site is tablet friendly. Amazon understands that the tablet is the critical gap emerging between the small smartphone and the large laptop computer. Consumers increasingly shop on-the-go, and Amazon's site is among the global leading Internet retail sites.
Consider only that about one in five Internet users from around the world visits Amazon's retail site at amazon.com. The company wants to sell tablets and content, so its Web site needs to be quite tablet-friendly.
Thus, Amazon has a redesigned site that is less cluttered than it was previously, with fewer buttons, more white space and a bigger search box. It's cleaner and lighter -- custom-designed for tablet users.
That means buyers of Amazon's new tablet will have optimization that best fits the company's site. Whether it's ebooks or shopping for products or downloading movies, rest assured that Amazon's tablet will run best in sync with amazon.com.