Amazon's new tablet: What to expect

It debuts on Wednesday, so here's the inside running

With Amazon's highly anticipated tablet set to debut on Wednesday, we've decided to round up what we know, or think we know, about the new device.

Want more rumors: Check out those about the iPhone 5

First, it will have a seven-inch screen. Although the tablet is being designed to compete directly with Apple's iPad, the new Amazon tablet will be closer in size to its traditional Kindle models than the iPad. Some rumors have stated that Amazon plans to release a 10-inch tablet as well, although that larger version is likely to come out next year.

Second, it will be inexpensive. The HP Touchpad's posthumous success has shown there's a very big market for people who want tablets but who don't want to fork out $500 for an iPad. Amazon is apparently determined to meet this demand by pricing its new tablet aggressively lower than the iPad, with some reports pegging its price as low as $171 or as high as $250. Either way, it will provide a cheap alternative for people who want a high-profile tablet.

Third, it will make Android its own. Tech Crunch's M.G. Siegler has played around with Amazon's tablet and he says that it has taken the Android operating system and made it wholly its own by preloading its own services and applications instead of Google's. Among other key features are the Amazon Android Appstore, the Kindle e-reader app, the Amazon Cloud Player for music and the Instant Video player for movies. So while device manufacturers such as Samsung and Motorola have been happy to use Google's native apps as defaults for its devices, Amazon is largely striking out on its own and making its tablet an Amazon experience instead of a Google experience.

Fourth, it will be all about the cloud. Nate Hoffelder of the Digital Reader reports that some code found on one of Amazon's web pages suggests that the new tablet will have cloud storage capabilities on par with the company's Cloud Drive service that launched this past spring. Cloud Drive lets users upload 5GB of data to the cloud for free so it can be safely stored in the cloud and then accessed from any web-connected computer. After the first 5GB, Amazon essentially charges an additional $1 per year for each additional GB with plans that include $20 a year for 20GB, $100 per year for 100GB and so forth.

This is significant, Hoffelder notes, because "you've always been able to upload docs to the Cloud Drive but you couldn't access them from any current Kindle." This is also important from a marketing perspective since cloud storage capabilities will become a staple of the tablet and smartphone experience once Apple starts integrating its own iCloud services into its devices in the near future. Getting ahead of the curve on cloud services could generate some additional buzz for the Amazon tablet.

And finally, it could be the first tablet to actually challenge the iPad. Note the emphasis on "could" and notice how we never referred to the Amazon tablet as a potential "iPad killer." But analysts at Forrester have projected that the tablet could sell between 3 million to 5 million units by the end of this year due to a combination of its low price, its cloud capabilities and Amazon's strong brand name. Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps said this summer that "Amazon's willingness to sell hardware at a loss -- combined with the strength of its brand, content, cloud infrastructure, and commerce assets -- makes it the only credible iPad competitor in the market." In other words, if you'd like to see any device break up Apple's current stranglehold on the tablet market, the Amazon tablet is probably for you.

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Brad Reed

Network World

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