New Android Amazon Kindle to abandon eInk and take on iPad with customized Android build

Posted:
in iPad edited January 2014
Amazon's next Kindle will abandon the efficient, easy to read eInk display of existing models and morph into a $250, 7 inch color touchscreen model based on Android, but incapable of accessing Google's app market or benefiting from future Android releases.



The details of the new Kindle were leaked by TechCrunch writer MG Siegler after a hands on review of the new model. Siegler said the device looks very similar to the BlackBerry PlayBook "in terms of form-factor."



The report states that Amazon was trying to ship the 7 inch model alongside a 10 inch companion, but focused on delivering the smaller tablet first. It is expected to ship in October, with the iPad-sized version held back for another year.



Priced at $250, Amazon's new Kindle will be far cheaper than the RIM PlayBook (pictured below), which still costs at least $450 even after a $150 price cut by Best Buy to move inventory after sluggish sales. However, the new Kindle will cost the same as Barns & Noble's Nook Color, which is similarly sized and is also based on Android.







After originally limited the Nook Color to only function as an ebook reader, B&N opened the device up to run Android apps and function more like a general purpose tablet. The company also cut the price from a list high of $504 to $250 to attract buyers.



Amazon's new Kindle



Like the Nook Color, PlayBook, and Samsung's original 7 inch Galaxy Tab, Amazon's new Kindle won't run Google's latest tablet-specific version of Android 3.0 Honeycomb. Instead, the Kindle is reported to run a modified version of Android 2.2 Froyo that uses a highly customized user interface created by Amazon.



"The interface is all Amazon and Kindle," Siegler 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. This includes books, apps, movies, etc. Below the main carousel is a dock to pin your favorite items in one easy-to-access place. When you turn the device horizontally, the dock disappears below the fold."



The device lacks any physical buttons. Users navigate to the home screen via on-screen navigation. The device is said to be integrated into Amazon's own appstore, and lacks any Google apps or access to Google's Android Market.



Instead, the device includes a Kindle app, Amazon's Cloud Player app for music, and the company's Instant Video player for viewing its Netflix-like video subscription service. The device is reported to be built around a single core processor, will initially be WiFi only, and have only 6GB of storage, relying on Amazon's cloud services to access content. It also lacks a camera.



2010 Again



As described, the new Amazon Kindle would compete with existing "tweener" tablets introduced last year with similar hardware specifications and (like the Nook Color and 7 inch Tab) a similarly limited version of Android, the same version Google asked its licensees not to base their tablets upon as it worked to finish Android 3.0 Honeycomb.



These devices were the subject of criticism by Steve Jobs' prediction last year that manufacturers were only making 7 inch tablets to hit a particular price point because they couldn't match the iPad's features and price, and that once those devices flopped in the market, their makers would introduce larger models capable of delivering a real tablet experience.



A year later, after sales of iPad-sized Honeycomb tablets like the Motorola Xoom and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 failed to materialize, a variety of Android makers are returning to the mini-tablet form factor in hopes of hitting a low enough price point to spark interest and perhaps exploit a low end market below that dominated by the iPad. When the iPad first appeared, critics suggested that there was no potential market for devices between handheld mobiles and full sized notebooks. Now they hope there is one between handhelds and the iPad.



Finding the lowest common denominator for Android fractions



It's not yet clear whether Amazon will discontinue its eInk Kindles, which are limited primarily to ebook reading but offer some unique advantages in readability and power efficiency over conventional backlit LCD displays. Amazon previously focused on the advantages of its eInk Kindles when comparing them to the iPad.



The new Kindle's use of Android won't allow the device to run this year's Android 3.0 Honeycomb apps or the new Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" apps Google plans to introduce this winter.



That will force Android developers to decide which fraction of the population to support: the growing segment of users attracted to low cost Android 2.x tablets, or much smaller minority of users springing for larger tablets that can run the new 3.0 and 4.0 apps, but which cost as much or more than Apple's iPad.



Across all devices that run Android and have recently accessed Google's app market (that would exclude devices like the Nook Color and the upcoming Kindle), as of the beginning of September, 2011, less than 2 percent run Honeycomb, while 30 percent run a version of 2.3 Gingerbread released for smartphones last winter by Google. Just over 51 percent run Android 2.2 Froyo, and more that 16 percent run a version prior to Froyo. A variety of very popular Android smartphones still don't have an upgrade path to last winter's release of Gingerbread.







Android brand becoming meaningless



Like the Nook Color however, the new Kindle's use of "Android 2.x" masks the reality that "running Android" doesn't necessarily mean that an device can run "Android apps," or that it looks and works like other Android devices, even when limiting that definition to a specific version and API level of Android.



As noted by blogger Danny Sullivan, despite running "Android 2.2," the Nook Color is similarly designed to only work with B&N's own app store. That means its users can't install the free edition of Angry Birds in Google's Android Market, but rather have to buy the Nook-specific version.



"With the Nook, if you already own Angry Birds on another Android device, you won?t be able to use it. And if you buy the Nook version, that?s not going to work on your real Android devices," Sullivan explains, adding, "if these devices will be called 'Android' by the press, I think we need to set some minimum requirements for that.



"At the very least, the device should be able to run any of the thousands of applications that would typically run on an Android device. Having its own app store with a tiny subset of apps that can?t be used on real Android devices is a sign it?s not really Android."
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Comments

  • thisismikethisismike Posts: 33member
    "The Nook Color.... B&N....also cut the price from a list high of $504 to $250 to attract buyers."



    This is COMPLETELY inaccurate. The NookColor has been the SAME PRICE since it's inception: $249.00. The list price of the device hasn't changed in any way whatsoever since it was first released back around Oct/Nov, and in fact, the low price is one of the things that made the device a success.



    This line should be corrected, stat.
  • jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    Epic fail.



    Inability to run Android apps is a huge problem. And one of the big Kindle selling features was eInk. Losing it costs them the 'readability advantage' they claim.



    Half the size of the iPad, too. Too big for your pocket and too small to be a full blown pad. Given the size and lack of Android apps, it will be an eReader and not much else - but with them losing the claimed advantage of eInk, there's nothing going for it but the price.
  • mister snitchmister snitch Posts: 580member
    This sounds like a true iPad alternative. The first I'd say really had a chance to succeed. I don't know about 'competitor' - it's not necessarily one or the other, but it's an alternative at least. The different form factor (smaller) and competitive (lower) price make it so.



    The guys who have been offering pretty much iPad clones - at higher prices, yet - what were they thinking? The only characteristic distinguishing them from the iPad was the ability to run Flash, and as the marketplace has loudly declared, that's not nearly enough.



    Amazon's brand recognition and trust among consumers rank somewhere near Apple's. They have an app ecosystem (don't know how good it is but they have it, and probably will improve it), they have the ability to sell content for the product, they have the marketing muscle, and they have existing customers to sell it to (especially buyers of older Kindles).



    Looks like a win.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jragosta View Post


    Epic fail.



    Inability to run Android apps is a huge problem. And one of the big Kindle selling features was eInk. Losing it costs them the 'readability advantage' they claim.



    Half the size of the iPad, too. Too big for your pocket and too small to be a full blown pad. Given the size and lack of Android apps, it will be an eReader and not much else - but with them losing the claimed advantage of eInk, there's nothing going for it but the price.



    1) As H-P just demonstrated with its tablet fire sale, price means a LOT, not a little.



    2) I don't think Kindle buyers necessarily PREFER e-ink. That's far from proven. E-ink is just what you got at the Kindle price.



    3) The size of these things isn't for everyone, or for every occasion. On the other hand, neither is the iPad's size always optimal. Choice.



    4) I don't know that the article specifically stated that the device would NOT run Android apps. It will probably run some apps and not others, but it will also probably get apps optimized for it because of Amazon's proven ability to sell Kindles. (Which is the same reason most developers write for the iPad - Apple's track record.)
  • wurm5150wurm5150 Posts: 763member
    So.. From how Seigler is describing it. This is really more of a Nook Color killer.
  • sierrajeffsierrajeff Posts: 366member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Wurm5150 View Post


    So.. From how Seigler is describing it. This is really more of a Nook Color killer.



    a NoCoKill? excellent
  • sierrajeffsierrajeff Posts: 366member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jragosta View Post


    And one of the big Kindle selling features was eInk. Losing it costs them the 'readability advantage' they claim.



    I agree, this is almost unbelievably bizarre. Having used my iPad outdoors, and having seen people using Kindles, this is (was?) a big distinction. Amazon'd throw that away?
  • solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jragosta View Post


    Epic fail.



    Inability to run Android apps is a huge problem. And one of the big Kindle selling features was eInk. Losing it costs them the 'readability advantage' they claim.



    Half the size of the iPad, too. Too big for your pocket and too small to be a full blown pad. Given the size and lack of Android apps, it will be an eReader and not much else - but with them losing the claimed advantage of eInk, there's nothing going for it but the price.



    I don't think it's a fail, epic or otherwise, at this point. I think it's shaping up to be the Android tablet likely to garner the most unit sales.



    One of the features is eInk, but one of the features of the iPod was the capacitance-based click wheel. Unfortunately for some tech to improve overall you have to drop certain things. I don't see Amazon being able to keep eInk-based devices as their only option if they want to grow their hold on eReaders.



    I don't think the size is great, but if does reduce the cost and weight. I bet the majority of Kindles they sell are the smaller, 6" units so this would offer more of a display area. If they have a hiDPI display that displays text remarkably well and offers great battery life I think it will be a winner.
  • solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Sierrajeff View Post


    I agree, this is almost unbelievably bizarre. Having used my iPad outdoors, and having seen people using Kindles, this is (was?) a big distinction. Amazon'd throw that away?



    Throw that away? How do you get that? Did Apple throw the iPhone away because they offered the iPad? Of course not. Both LCD- and eInk-based Kindle models can exist at the same time!
  • island hermitisland hermit Posts: 6,217member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    I don't think it's a fail, epic or otherwise, at this point. I think it's shaping up to be the Android tablet likely to garner the most unit sales.



    One of the features is eInk, but one of the features of the iPod was the capacitance-based click wheel. Unfortunately for some tech to improve overall you have to drop certain things. I don't see Amazon being able to keep eInk-based devices as their only option if they want to grow their hold on eReaders.



    I don't think the size is great, but if does reduce the cost and weight. I bet the majority of Kindles they sell are the smaller, 6" units so this would offer more of a display area. If they have a hiDPI display that displays text remarkably well and offers great battery life I think it will be a winner.



    Really? You don't see this as a tough sell.



    Amazons eInk Kindle sells well, so they say, and wouldn't that be because of price, readability and weight.



    Compare that to the new Kindle... more expensive, harder to read (probably) and most likely heavier but definitely a bit smaller... and not offering a heck of a lot more than the original Kindle.



    I'd have to see it and compare it to the current Kindle to see where they are going with this.
  • SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 24,932member
    At that low price point, there will be some room for this product, but only if hackers can make it more usable.
  • prof. peabodyprof. peabody Posts: 2,860member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    I don't think it's a fail, epic or otherwise, at this point. I think it's shaping up to be the Android tablet likely to garner the most unit sales. ... I think it will be a winner.



    Totally agree.



    The criticism noted in the article is based on a faulty assumption about the market the device is meant to address.



    It's not a "do-it-all" tablet made expressly for tech geeks (which is pretty much the only Android tablets we've seen so far). It's a better, stronger, faster, COLOUR eReader at roughly the same price point as the previous eReaders Amazon has sold which actually do remarkably well.



    There's no reason it wouldn't sell like crazy IMO.
  • solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by island hermit View Post


    Really? You don't see this as a tough sell.



    Amazons eInk Kindle sells well, so they say, and wouldn't that be because of price, readability and weight.



    Compare that to the new Kindle... more expensive, harder to read (probably) and most likely heavier but definitely a bit smaller... and not offering a heck of a lot more than the original Kindle.



    I'd have to see it and compare it to the current Kindle to see where they are going with this.



    I see it as a way for people can buy a tablet at half the price of Apple's lowest model. I don't think this will hurt Apple's sales, but I think it will hit a demographic Apple's not specifically targeting.



    I don't how many Kindles have been sold but I know a lot of people with them. I also see a lot when I'm out. I'd say less than I see of iPads, but certainly more often than I see Android-based handsets.



    I don't think it'll be harder to read unless you're in direct sunlight. It's also seems to be offering a heck of a lot more than the original Kindle? or any Kindle to date. You'll be able to read email, use a real web browser, and watch videos from this device.
  • tbelltbell Posts: 3,146member
    The only reason I would buy a Kindle is for the eInk screen. In my view, big mistake.
  • island hermitisland hermit Posts: 6,217member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    I see it as a way for people can buy a tablet at half the price of Apple's lowest model. I don't think this will hurt Apple's sales, but I think it will hit a demographic Apple's not specifically targeting.



    I don't how many Kindles have been sold but I know a lot of people with them. I also see a lot when I'm out. I'd say less than I see of iPads, but certainly more often than I see Android-based handsets.



    I don't think it'll be harder to read unless you're in direct sunlight. It's also seems to be offering a heck of a lot more than the original Kindle? or any Kindle to date. You'll be able to read email, use a real web browser, and watch videos from this device.



    I guess the question would be... "Does the Nook sell?".



    No access to an app store and stuck with a custom Froyo OS...



    Maybe... but it still looks like a hard sell to me.
  • tbelltbell Posts: 3,146member
    I have an iPad. I love it. I use it to watch movies, surf the web, check email, and play games. I would not read a whole book using one because the backlight of the screen does create eye fatigue. It is not horrible, but enough to notice after a hour of reading.



    This new Kindle will not be hard to read any more the the iPad is hard to read. The issue, however, is will it be as enjoyable to read. I doubt it. With eInk there is no backlight, hence no eye strain associated from staring at a light. It almost captures the feeling of reading a book.





    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    I don't think it'll be harder to read unless you're in direct sunlight. It's also seems to be offering a heck of a lot more than the original Kindle? or any Kindle to date. You'll be able to read email, use a real web browser, and watch videos from this device.



  • solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by island hermit View Post


    I guess the question would be... "Does the Nook sell?".



    No access to an app store and stuck with a custom Froyo OS...



    Maybe... but it still looks like a hard sell to me.



    That's a good question, but we'd also have to factor in the Amazon's popularity as an eBook store as well as the rest of their ecosystem.
  • idaveidave Posts: 1,283member
    With this new Kindle, the Nook Color and a new Galaxy Tab 7.7 in the works, the seven inch tablet market is looking up!



    I own a Nook Color, and also a Nook SimpleTouch. (I don't like the e-ink screen. It's too hard to read if the lighting isn't really, very bright.) The Nook Color isn't perfect, but for me, it's the perfect size portable tablet/internet device. I think the iPad is too big and too expensive and the iPod touch is too small.



    So, more competition in 7 inch tablets sounds great! I can't wait to see what's available in a year or two when they really take off.
  • solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by TBell View Post


    I have an iPad. I love it. I use it to watch movies, surf the web, check email, and play games. I would not read a whole book using one because the backlight of the screen does create eye fatigue. It is not horrible, but enough to notice after a hour of reading.



    I've never understood this. I've been reading text on displays for 8+ hours a day for 15 years without incident. The IPS panel in the iPad is better than the TN panel in my MBP is better than the old CRT displays of yore. Seems to be it's all getting better to read on, not worse.
  • tbelltbell Posts: 3,146member
    Kindle's beauty is it is a dedicated reader. It provides a top notch digital reading experience. Adding a back lit screen to make the device do more, for many readers will probably be a step backwards. It might still sell, but probably not for people who truly love reading.





    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Prof. Peabody View Post


    It's a better . . . eReader.



  • prof. peabodyprof. peabody Posts: 2,860member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post


    At that low price point, there will be some room for this product, but only if hackers can make it more usable.



    People in the market for an eReader and "hackers" are pretty much at opposite ends of the earth.
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