Wednesday, November 3, 2010

ZDNet today on: Amazon's Secret Android Tablet ?

  That's ZDNet's Jason Perlow who is going there in bold letters without a question mark, for ZDNet -- and for once I somewhat agree with him that it's possible although not likely for awhile, and not this year.

  It's occurred to me for days that Amazon bought Touchco quite some time ago and I've read that they're busy but Amazon has no plans for a touch screen for the Kindle E-Reader, they say.  Smart wording.  I also read that Qualcomm feels their Mirasol technology (e-paper like, muted color, fast enough to do video and easy on batteries) may be ready to be in e-readers by year-end.  At the same time, full-scale production could not happen until next year, another article said, so who knows.  Testing would take months after that.

  At the same time, Amazon's Lab126 has had job ads for some time, for video and animation programmers.  Why?  And why not a less-expensive LCD Tablet with a *secondary* function of e-reading, for color magazines, travel books, cook books with enticing illustrations, and for ENHANCED KINDLE BOOKS that are coming out with multimedia enhancements while a plain-text version isn't available?  One is by Rick Springfield, Late, Late at Night.  That's a Kindle book obviously available only for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch devices...for now.  There are other enhanced Kindle books also.

  Would Amazon give up that area?  They can use Apple's iPad well without worrying about developing and maintaining another piece of hardware/software.   But, there is a target audience that won't be interested in anything BUT a color device and which doesn't care about long-form reading particularly nor about black and white E-Ink.  As Barnes and Noble marketing knows, there are also families with young children who are blissed out by the iPad or would like something like that if it weren't so expensive while somewhat fragile for that market.

  I've thought that Jeff Bezos' talk with Charlie Rose made clear he didn't want color E-ink for the Kindle - it's not ready.  But what about a tablet that concentrates on younger reading, color books, magazines, and web browsing.

  Would Bezos allow another e-reader to partner with Qualcomm for the first Mirasol e-reader/tablet?  Would he give up the relatively inexpensive LCD color market whether or not people can easily view an LCD outdoors?

  So, I've wondered.  And now ZDNet has come out with an eye-catching headline on Amazon's "Secret" Tablet.  Conjecture but interesting.

According to Perlow and cohorts, Amazon has the infrastructure and support needed for a successful tablet.  Read his column for the details though.  He speculates:
' The only reason why Amazon would want to develop its own App Store would be to offer the service to low-cost device manufacturers in order to compete with the Android Market, or to provide an app ecosystem for a device of its very own. '
  He's taking a "wild guess" -- and there is NOTHING on this but speculation.

  Although, he says,
' licensing to 3rd-parties is not out of the question ... based on my examination of the initial materials which have leaked, Amazon’s App Store is most likely to have a “curated” model similar to Apple’s App Store, in order to maintain quality control as well as deny potential competitors access to it.  This is in stark contrast to the Android Market, which is effectively a Wild West with limited acceptance criteria. '

  He wonders if it might even sport a dual mode transflective LCD display (w/an e-paper capability) such as Pixel Q's.  If so, it'd be the first ereader tablet that would be readable outdoors.  We're getting way ahead of ourselves though, and he adds this disclaimer for those hoping for something this year:

  "When this Amazon Tablet is likely to appear is anyone’s guess.
    It’s unlikely to be this coming holiday season.

  Well, I agree on that too, because putting out a bug-free model with such a change in technology, just to catch the holiday season, would be a bad idea.

So, ZDNet has some eyes for its latest column, and I thought I'd report on their conjecture and my own, though it's extremely UNLIKELY there'll be anything at all ready before next spring.

I wonder how many would be happy to have an inexpensive, unusable in sunlight e-reader tablet that uses LCD color.  The image in the header is of two Microsoft Windows Tablets.  Might Amazon partner with someone else on the hardware?  I don't think so.  I think Control is important.

  Many say that, for themselves, all they care about is color, but what if it's smaller and they can use it only indoors and it has short battery life, weighs a pound, and takes forever to charge? Do people want that? Wouldn't people want to wait for the flexible e-ink surface that's coming before spending money on one for children?

  At any rate, I might ultimately like a *secondary* e-reader that does do ePub and color, as an extra reader.  How much would I pay for that? I don't know.  I haven't been tempted by anything yet (because I wouldn't pay that much for a secondary reader unless I know it functions well and that'll take some time), though I'm gadget-attracted -- for now, it doesn't fill a need, in my case.  Probably because I have such a great, small but multi-featured, 2.7 lb netbook.

 A want, maybe -- sometimes.  But now the Galaxy 7" Tablet, with 2 cameras, an SD slot, a web browser - with up to 8 open windows at one time - and which runs Flash (tho' slow to load it), plus an e-reader function, is getting both very good reviews yesterday (one by Engadget) and a meh one today from another reviewer.  For one thing, it's small but would cost a bit more than the larger iPad (portability costs as do the additional features the iPad doesn't have).  It's a confusing area, the 7" e-reader/tablet field.  One to step into carefully, for both buyers and makers.

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  1. I've just spent my play money on an iPod Touch, so a tablet is not in my immediate future, it seems. I am willing to wait to see what happens, the speculation is kind of tiresome.

    However, I was curious about 'enhanced' ebooks:

    I finally figured out how to find them in Kindle Store (on a computer web browser): choose Kindle Store at and then 'Kindle Editions with Audio-Video' from the Search dropdown). Kindle Store shows 131 of these things (including the entire 'Artemis Fowl' series).

    For iBookstore I searched for 'Enhanced', but this depends on having this string in the title, and I noticed that some append '(Enhanced Version)' and a few append '(Enhanced Edition)'. There are 155 total at least with this search. (aside: how do people find things in iBookstore? no categories, no cross linking...)

    A few titles appear in both stores.

    I was curious to see what happens if you send an Enhanced version to a Kindle. Of course, they are much larger in general, and will only deliver over wifi (or so they say). Indeed, I sent a sample of the enhanced version of "How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe" to my iPod, K4Mac, and my K3, and it opens okay on each case, though with different behaviors. iPod of course plays the audio or video. On K4Mac, a placeholder image shows up instead of the actual video, but only blank space where the audio icon would be; on Kindle, there's alternate text: "There is content at this location that is not currently supported for your Kindle device. The caption for this content is displayed below." Seems like a future upgrade should allow K4PC and K4Mac full access to the multimedia.

    I was concerned that I'd have to order the non-enhanced edition if I wanted to read it on anything but the iPod, but as long as you don't mind the extra storage requirement, it appears you don't have to do that. Still, it might be nice if Amazon would intelligently deliver the file without multimedia to Kindle, or provide an option to download either version somehow. I doubt they have plans to even support embedded audio on K3, much less video...

    I find it kind of an underwhelming experience, but at least they don't seem to cost more, or much more. More a gimmick than anything. But I reserve the right to change my mind if I come across something truly interesting.

  2. Tom,
    Whaaa? Are you saying that what I wrote was kind of tiresome ? :-) Just teasing.

    Re finally figuring out how to find the Enhanced ones in the Kindle store. I have a *direct link* to them in the body of my post.

    Yes, many complain that iBookstore isn't an easy browse.

    Well certainly you're not going to be able to send a 183 meg enhanced book to the Kindle via 3G, so they mean it when they say No to that but via WiFi, usually. Why not, except it would take forever and they'd say they didn't "support" all the audio and video stuff, which is good warning, when you're giving up 200 times the storage space for it.

    I agree that the apps for computers should support it all.

    I'd never waste my little K3 space on an almost 200 megabyte enhanced book when a normal book takes less than one megabyte.

    As far as "intelligently" deliver - they'd need to make a separate file for it without the multimedia rather than, on the spur of the moment deliver what you need. What a bear for server processes. Then they should have something in place in the stripped-down-books to let you know what you are not seeing and hearing if the basic book was done with multimedia.

    The e-reader should remain an e-reader Otherwise the capabilities have to be upgraded in price as well as storage capability. Who needs it. Buy something else for all that. I want my ereader to just give me books plus the small separate stuff it does now.

    Yes, the rewards on many enhanced books won't be huge in many cases, but I'm sure that eventually you'll run across something where they use the capability well.


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