Amazon gets it: One size doesn’t fit all for tablets

lots of tablets

The Kindle Fire was only Amazon’s first foray into the tablet market: Up to six additional tablet models are expected from Amazon, according to various analysts and industry insiders. Reuters offered a summary of the expectations on Monday, which quotes Demos Parneros, the president of office equipment retailer Staples, saying at least one of the half-dozen Amazon tablets will be a 10-inch model.

Rumors of Amazon pushing harder into the mobile device space have cropped up since late last year, following the September introduction of the Kindle Fire tablet. Earlier this month, the company was reportedly testing its own smartphone, likely to be built upon Google’s Android operating system, just like the Kindle Fire is. You’d never know that however: Amazon doesn’t use any Google-specific applications on the Fire and hides the Android look-and-feel with an Amazon-branded user interface.

So why consider multiple tablet sizes? Amazon has a multitude of shopping and consumption data from laptops and desktops with various screens. It also has information on consumer behavior through its mobile website from iPads and other tablets plus similar data from its Amazon Mobile app and, of course, its own Kindle Fire. And it can use that information to create a range of products that appeal to many, regardless of their personal preference for a small screen, large screen or one sized in between.

We’ve already seen that a 7-inch slate can be popular and in high demand: Initially with the Fire and more recently, the Google Nexus 7, which Google reportedly underestimated demand. Considering that point, combined with the iPad’s popularity and Amazon’s own data, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if the company outs a 10-inch slate while also improving the 7-inch version with better hardware.

But I wouldn’t rule out other screen sizes as well. Just as there’s no one-size fits all for television sets, there isn’t one for the personalized experience a mobile device brings either. You might want to watch Amazon Instant Video title on that 7-inch screen when on the road, for example, but pick up playback on a larger device at home. Amazon is more than willing to sell you both the content and the devices for that experience and it will even keep your place in the movie to make the device switch seamless, no matter what size the screen is. And who pioneered content synchronization? Amazon’s WhisperSync was rightfully touted as a differentiating feature when the first Kindle devices arrived in 2007.

The screen size question is one I’ve been interested in for years because I’ve either tested or bought devices in a wide range of sizes. A unique 4-inch VGA personal digital assistant was my “take everywhere” device in 2003, for example, because the screen was massive by comparison to any other pocketable computer at that time. What did I do with that large screen? Most of the same things I do today with my tablets: I read e-books, browsed the web over Wi-Fi, ran mobile apps, and watched videos, although it was much more difficult to do that back then. I had to convert packaged physical media to digital files.

Fast forward to today and instead of very few screen size choices for mobile devices, it now seems like we have a size for every hand, pocket and messenger bag. In the past five years alone, we’ve gone from Apple’s groundbreaking 3.5-inch touchscreen to hot selling phones with 5.3-inch displays and tablets as large as 21-inches. Apple again set a standard with its 9.7-inch iPad, but is expected by many to announce a smaller slate, possibly within the next six months.

After testing the Kindle Fire and watching it become a holiday sales hit in the last quarter of 2011 — the tablet still shows as no.1 best selling product on Amazon’s website — I’ve long suspected Amazon’s tablet and phone rumors are true. Amazon has watched the shift to mobile activities; both buying items and consuming content are mobile activities. It simply makes sense for the company to expand its line of connected mobile terminals in every form factor consumers are willing to buy. And with a treasure trove of data, Amazon can optimize both the content consumption and online sales experience for tablets and phones, regardless of the screen size consumers choose.

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