Amazon Kindle tablet launching next week?

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Given that a press invite from Amazon just hit my inbox for next Wednesday in New York City, I’d say it’s a safe bet that the long wait for Amazon’s tablet entry is about to end. The invite doesn’t offer any details, but all signs have hinted at a fall release for the device. And given the reported amount of Amazon tablets that were ordered from third-party hardware manufacturers — upwards of 800,000 per month — such a product launch would certainly warrant a huge press event.

Earlier this month, a prototype of the device, expected to be called the Amazon Kindle tablet, got a once-over from MG Siegler, who shared his initial impressions after using the device for a short time. Much of what he said then confirmed some of my prior thoughts and expectations of the device. It will likely be a 7-inch slate based on Google Android, but like the Barnes & Noble Nook Color, Android will be hidden under a custom interface. Siegler mentioned a cover-flow type of interface for Kindle books, music and video, which makes sense. In fact, the latest version of the Kindle app for Android devices moved in this direction as well; possibly offering a preview of what to expect.

We won’t know the tablet cost for sure until the product actually launches, but my thought was a top price around $250 with possible subsidies offset by Amazon Offers or Amazon Prime, which could further lower the cost in the sub-$200 range. Siegler confirmed the $250 price tag after using the device although Amazon could have since changed their position or could announce special deals to further reduce the price.

One “missing” feature that Siegler didn’t see (but I expect to be part of the device) is the Amazon AppStore, which is composed of curated Android applications. It’s clear the tablet will focus on Amazon’s media offerings — books, MP3s and videos — and it will have a web browser. Amazon has invested a fair amount of time and effort to create its Amazon AppStore, and I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t incorporate that into its tablet. Given that the device isn’t expected to have any Google apps at all, it seems likely to me that some basic third-party software options would be welcome. We’ll find out for sure as early as next week.

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