Report: Amazon Kindle Tablet Is The Real Deal, And It Looks Like A PlayBook

The Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) tablet that has been the subject of so much speculation has just taken one leap closer to reality: a report just out gives us the first full-scale rundown of how it looks, what it does, what it costs ($250) and when it might finally start to get sold (November).

M.G. Siegler of TechCrunch got his hands on a testing device and he had this to say: “Not only have I heard about the device, I [have] seen it and used it. And I’m happy to report that it’s going to be a big deal. Huge, potentially.”

Basics: The device will have a 7-inch, full-color touchscreen with no keys on the front. It will be called simply Amazon Kindle. And it is built on Android, but a “forked” version of the OS — so it will look and act unlike any other version of Android we’ve typically seen on other tablets. Amazon is likely to make its own updates to the device — meaning it will be outside the realm of all the “Honeycomb” and “Ice cream sandwich”-type iterations of the Android OS that are typical on other devices.

Some significant points from the article, which has no pictures but is long on detail:

Services. Just as we have speculated it would, Amazon is tightly integrating all of the cloud services that it has been building up over the last year or so: its Amazon Appstore; its music player; and of course its Kindle e-reading service. An Amazon Prime membership will be included with the purchase of the tablet, apparently, giving buyers free two-day shipping and access to Amazon Instant Video. (For those who’d been paying for an Amazon Prime membership already, this brings the tablet’s effective cost to $171–less than the Kindle 3G.) There may be other services thrown in as well.

The report notes that mobile news reading app Pulse may be built into the new Kindle. Well, that would certainly be a way for Pulse to go mainstream.

The device itself. It’s actually on the low end if you compare it to other tablets on the market: Its screen is on the small side at seven inches; it does not have a camera; it will initially be WiFi-only; and it has just six GB of storage. It looks a lot like the BlackBerry PlayBook, apparently, with a rubberized back. Earlier reports had mentioned 3G connectivity (at a competitive price point), but according to this report the tablet will not have 3G at launch.

A low-end tablet might sound like death in any other context, except that this is Amazon and we have seen in the past two weeks what a cut-price tablet can do to a consumers’ appetite (thanks again for that cheap TouchPad I got this week, HP). At $250, the Kindle tablet is half the cost of the iPad–and at the price point that could lead to three to five million devices sold this year, according to Forrester. “This will be the first successful iPad rival,” writes John Gruber at Daring Fireball.

According to TechCrunch, here’s how it looks:

The interface is all Amazon and Kindle. It’s black, dark blue, and a bunch of orange. The main screen is a carousel that looks like Cover Flow in iTunes which displays all the content you have on the device. This includes books, apps, movies, etc. Below the main carousel is a dock to pin your favorite items in one easy-to-access place. When you turn the device horizontally, the dock disappears below the fold.

Above the dock is the status bar (time, battery, etc) and this doubles as a notification tray. When apps have updates, or when new subscriptions are ready for you to view, they appear here. The top bar shows “YOUR NAME’s Kindle” and then the number of notifications you have in bright orange. It looks quite nice.

Availability According to the report, Amazon is aiming to release the tablet toward the end of November.

Earlier reports had said that the tablet would be released in October and would have a 9-inch screen, and that Amazon would also release two other Kindle black-and-white e-readers this fall: one with a touchscreen, the other a new, cheaper version of the Kindle 3. According to this new TechCrunch report, though, it’s unclear whether those Kindles are really in the works: “One source said it doesn’t seem likely that Amazon is going to release a touch-screen e-ink Kindle, like the new Nook, anytime soon. But none of that is confirmed, it’s simply speculation based on the emphasis on getting this new tablet to market.” I still would not be surprised if we see a sub-$100 Kindle released before Christmas. (Meanwhile, TechCrunch says Amazon may yank the Kindle DX, which seems like a dud product anyway.)

Even if Amazon is cutting out some bells and whistles out of its tablet, it is offering users a lot more: a host of usable cloud services; some free services; and a low price. This may finally turn out to be the Android(ish) tablet fit to fight the iPad stronghold.

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