Kindle iPhone app is 'huge,' says analyst

And could prompt Apple to do a tablet, another expert says

Amazon's release Wednesday of an e-book reader for Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch is a "huge" move and a "win-win" for everyone concerned, analysts said.

"This is huge news, extremely important for Amazon," said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with Interpret, a research firm. "It extends the reach of the Kindle catalog to a whole new class of users, and introduces the concept of the e-book to people who don't want to invest in a [US]$359 device."

Earlier Wednesday, Amazon rolled out "Kindle for iPhone" on Apple's App Store. The free application lets iPhone and iPod Touch users read Amazon's e-book titles on their devices, synchronize the books they've bought between Apple's hardware and Amazon's own Kindle electronic readers, and download new titles via the iPhone or iPod Touch browser. E-books can also be ordered from Amazon's Web site via a browser on a PC or Mac; the Kindle e-reader will download the title to the iPhone or iPod Touch the next time the application is opened.

Unlike the Kindle reader, the new application does not link directly to the Amazon e-book store.

"Amazon's core business is selling books, and its job is to get those books on as many devices as possible," said Gartenberg. "And it has a chance of upselling some customers [to the Kindle] who want the functionality of a dedicated reader. This is a win-win for Amazon."

"How it helps Amazon is obvious," added Ezra Gottheil, an analyst at Technology Business Research. "It would rather sell a mess of books than just a few electronic readers. But it's a win-win for both companies. For Apple, it increases the value of the iPhone and the iPod Touch. People now don't have to choose between the Kindle and an iPhone.

"It definitely makes Apple's devices more attractive," Gottheil added.

Amazon currently sells about 240,000 titles in Kindle e-book format, many of them for US$9.99, and is the only seller of the Kindle 2 electronic reader, which it prices at US$359. The Kindle 2, which was launched in early February, but only started shipping last week, boasts an always available wireless connection for ordering new titles and synchronizing multiple devices, including iPhones and iPod Touches equipped with the new Kindle app.

The application uses Amazon's proprietary "Whispersync" technology to bookmark a user's spot in an e-book, then synchronize that bookmark to a Kindle, Kindle 2 or other Apple device.

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Gregg Keizer

Computerworld
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