There’s been much hubbub surrounding the rumoured imminent release of an Amazon tablet.
Rumours about the device have been as plentiful as rain drops across the British Isles, with many no doubt erroneous claims being made about the device.
Whilst Tech Crunch did manage to get hold of one for a quick glimpse, there’s a lot left to learn about the Amazon Kindle tablet.
With that in mind, here are five things we want to see from Amazon to really shake up the tablet market and present business users with a genuinely exciting alternative.
Bigger, better hardware
Reports that the Android-based tablet will have a seven inch screen will please those who just want a lightweight e-reader which can access the web as well as e-books, but we're not convinced that such a small screen is well suited for general purpose computing as a larger 10in tablet would be. For business users and IT departments, a bigger device will mean easier typing and simpler use of complicated, more granular apps, such as analytics software.
Much depends on how Amazon markets the tablet - either as a more flexible Kindle or as a fully-fledged tablet replacement for a netbook or laptop. Nevertheless, for the average enterprise user, the bigger the tablet and the quicker the processor, the better. A powerful chip, combined with a super high resolution, will provide the kind of slick, multi-tasking experience iPad users have grown used to.
Get the apps and the OS right
There's also the small matter of apps. Since Amazon's tablet will allegedly use a heavily customised version of Android 2.3 instead of 3.0, it won't be able to run the available selection of tablet-optimised Android apps. Whether the lure of Amazon's own app store will be enough to compensate for this remains to be seen - especially if Amazon's heavy customisations means the tablet will never be upgradeable to either Honeycomb or Ice Cream Sandwich.
For the business user though, Amazon could help kick start development efforts with its own apps that tie in with its AWS and S3 services. With so many companies running their infrastructure in the AWS cloud, having quality cloud management software would be a real boon for Amazon customers in IT.
Don’t be an iPad copycat
Whilst tight integration is a good model to follow, Amazon should stay well away from trying to imitate the iPad. Not a single tablet has shown itself to be truly competitive with Apple’s device – certainly not in terms of sales at least. Why not? Because they have tried to do what the iPad does without offering many noticeable differentiators.
If Amazon really is taking the Android code and turning it into something un-Android, this can only be positive. Consumers need to be presented with a real alternative, with an OS that looks and feels different, yet has real quality too. Moving away from the typical iOS-like grid of icons could be one way to aesthetic differentiation, but if done in a user friendly, efficient way, it could start a trend of its own.
Just as Microsoft has attempted something different with Windows Phone 7 and Windows 8, Amazon would do well to move away from the imitators and become the true innovator the market needs. Otherwise you can expect Apple to stay well ahead of the pack.
Don’t join the patent wars
Copying others doesn’t just constrain a company to others’ frameworks, it presents legal issues too. As we’ve seen in the case of Apple vs. Samsung, creating devices that have any similarity might be more than a tad problematic.
Not only are there legal costs to contend with, vendors can have their devices banned from sale altogether, even if it’s just one tiny feature that infringes on a patent.
For the sake of its own wellbeing, and for the market itself, Amazon needs to stay away from the patent wars. To do this, it will need to keep a close eye on the plethora of court cases involving Android right now.
One necessary first step will be in removing the feature in Android which was infringed on by Samsung’s Galaxy Tab. If the device launches without any patent problems during Amazon’s teething stage in the tablet market, the Kindle has a much greater chance of success.
Again, for business users, it means wider and (hopefully) better choice.
Low entry-level cost
Many tablet manufacturers have shot themselves in the foot with pricing. As HP showed with the fire sale of TouchPad devices, offering consumers a tablet at a low price will attract punters in their droves.
All Amazon has to do is produce a low-price entry-level device for the typical consumer as well as a high-end, pricier equivalent for the power-hungry business user.
It sounds simple, but few manufacturers have adopted the model, instead opting to produce a range of similar devices, the difference between each one only being in the 3G and capacity specs.
Why not offer some really exciting additions in a premium model, whilst ensuring the low-end offering does enough to keep the average tech user happy? It’s another area where Amazon can set itself apart, not pander to the Apple way of thinking.