Buyers hope for a sub-$300 Amazon tablet

An Amazon tablet should allow easy multimedia streaming from the Amazon marketplace, but its success may hinge on price

Amazon is expected to announce its first tablet at a press event in New York on Wednesday, and some potential buyers said they might be interested if the device debuts at below US$300.

Many questions about the device remain, but gadget enthusiasts said they hope it will give them easy access to e-books, music and movies from Amazon's online market. For many of them, however, price will be the determining factor, and for under $300 several said they may be willing to take the plunge.

The tablet reportedly will be called the Kindle Fire. It will have a 7-inch back-lit screen and run a customized version of Android developed by Amazon, according to the news blog TechCrunch.

Amazon hasn't said how much the device will cost, but some observers have speculated it will come in under $300. Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps recently wrote that Amazon may be willing to sell the device at a loss, as a way to move its books and other content, and could therefore hit that price point.

Parris Lilly, a radio host and managing editor of Talking About Games in Temecula, California, said he would likely purchase the device at $199, but may be willing to go as high as $250. As an owner of Apple's iPad, iPad 2 and Hewlett-Packard's short-lived TouchPad, he's not lacking in tablets.

"The rumored 7-inch form factor for easier e-book reading, along with Amazon's integrated media services, are my focus on this tablet," Lilly said. "I look forward to the Kindle e-reader and Amazon cloud music player."

While the Kindle book reader has an e-ink screen, a backlit screen on the Amazon tablet would not be a concern, Lilly said. The iPad offers a good reading experience but falls short on battery life with its 10-inch screen, he said. The Amazon tablet could potentially trump it in battery life with its smaller screen, he said.

"I think a 7-inch screen is the perfect paperback-style e-reader, and at a $250-or-under price point, along with all of Amazon's media services built in ... I am very interested in purchasing this tablet [on] day one," Lilly said.

Amazon's well-known brand inspires some confidence in its products, said John Dorer, president of a law firm in New York. He will buy the Amazon tablet, but only if it is priced at $250 or less.

"I don't get the feeling they are rushing their tablet like Research In Motion," he said.

Dorer owns an iPad and is still frustrated that it does not support Flash. An Amazon tablet would likely support that format and could also provide an easy online shopping experience. And at $250, he said, the device would be a bargain. "If it sucks, who cares?" he asked.

The Amazon tablet could provide access to new types of multimedia books and graphic novels from the Amazon store, which is something that appealed to student Joanna Price. She already owns a Kindle e-reader but does not yet have a tablet.

"I use my Kindle for reference and cookbooks, and I'd use an Amazon tablet for the sort of new [multimedia] books ... as well as movies and games," Price said. "An Amazon tablet can do more with e-books than a Kindle can, and will provide a generally better treatment of fiction, particularly."

Price is studying in a master of library and information science program in Michigan. As a budding librarian, having access to a device like an Amazon tablet is important for her career, as she adapts to communicating with an increasingly tech-savvy user base.

"It is absolutely necessary to my future career as a public librarian to have enough confidence with technology to use it and talk about it with people who are growing up with this technology, for whom these skills are as natural as those of reading or arithmetic," Price said.

She's set a budget of $200 to $300, but may hold out for a second version of the tablet so that any kinks can be ironed out.

One buyer willing to spend more than $300 was Jay Faulkner, a writer in Northern Ireland. He would be open to spending £250 ($387) to £350, depending on the features Amazon has decided to offer. A love of the Kindle e-reader and lack of decent Android tablets spurred his interest in an Amazon device.

"I'm not a fan of Apple products and always saw the iPad as a 'toy,'" Faulkner said. "None of the more recent tablets -- with the exception of the Motorola Xoom, which nearly tempted me -- have given me enough of a valid reason to purchase one."

The idea of a more sophisticated version of the Kindle with the functionality of a tablet is very appealing, Faulkner said. He owns an HTC Desire HD smartphone, which also runs on Android, and hopes for some level of compatibility between the two.

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