Amazon Kindle Tablet: Android tablet or eReader on steroids?

The Kindle Tablet seems to erase the line between the traditional Kindle ereader device and full tablets
  • (PC World (US online))
  • — 26 September, 2011 23:42

Amazon is expected to unveil its Kindle Tablet at a press event in New York on Wednesday. From what we know so far about the device, it seems like it might be the first tablet rival capable of really competing with the Apple iPad. Based on the size and use of the Kindle brand, though, it is reasonable to wonder whether the Kindle Tablet is a true tablet PC, or just a Kindle with some tablet features.

Many have suggested that the iPad might be a "Kindle killer". While the two devices serve different purposes, there has always been some overlap. I argued about ten months ago, "Comparing a Kindle and an iPad is like comparing a spoon to a Swiss Army knife. Yes, both enable someone to eat a bowl of soup, but the spoon is more or less limited to that role, while the Swiss Army knife might also include a corkscrew, can opener, wire strippers, scissors, tweezers, magnifying glass, and screwdriver. Trying to determine which one is "better" is entirely subjective, and ultimately futile."

The Kindle Tablet will change that dynamic and pit the two devices head to head. So, will the Kindle Tablet now be an "iPad killer", or will it really just be an ereader with some extra bells and whistles?

The real question is actually "what’s the difference?" It's a little like seeing a red Corvette next to a red Porsche and saying, "Well, this one is a red sports car, but that one is just a sports car that's red." There is a point where the line is so blurred, and where the capabilities of each are so similar, that the distinction loses meaning.

The Barnes & Noble ereader--the Nook Color--also runs on Android and acts like a tablet. The Nook Color is still viewed as an ereader with some bonus features, though. Despite its Android roots and ability to run Android apps, the Nook Color is rarely mentioned in tablet discussions, or considered as a direct rival to tablets like the Lenovo IdeaPad, or Acer Iconia A100.

To be fair, the Nook Color really is more of an ereader on steroids than a tablet. Hackers figured out how to root the device and access its Android core, and Barnes & Noble eventually embraced the tablet cross-over aspects of the Nook Color. Barnes & Noble even has its own Nook Color App Store, but it has a limited library of apps, and the Nook Color lacks key tablet functionality like the ability to stream audio or video.

It seems the Amazon Kindle Tablet will blur those lines even farther, though--to the point that the line itself becomes irrelevant. If current reports and speculation about the Kindle Tablet come true, it will be a color version of a Kindle just as a Nook Color is a color version of a Nook, but it will fully embrace its Android heritage and provide a complete tablet experience rather than reluctantly tagging along after the fact.

Essentially, trying to define whether it is an ereader or a tablet is an exercise in futility. Yes, it will be capable of reading Kindle ebooks just like a traditional Kindle device. But, if it runs Android, and Android apps, and streams audio and video content, then it's tablet enough to meet the needs of most users. And, the $250 price tag is very competitive--especially if it includes Amazon Prime membership.

We'll see what Amazon unveils on Wednesday.

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
Topics: tablet PC, amazon.com, consumer electronics, kindle, Android, hardware systems, smartphones, tablets
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