Could an Amazon tablet reach consumers later this year?
Sources quoted by tech site DigiTimes claim that Taiwan-based Quanta Computer has already gotten orders from Amazon to build the retail giant's first tablet PC. The new tablet will apparently use E Ink's Fringe Field Switching LCD technology, suggesting it will be a color LCD touch panel (a departure from the black-and-white E-ink Kindles we've seen to date)."
The tablet will start shipping as soon as the second half of the year with monthly orders expected to hit 700,000 to 800,000 units during the peak season, according to the DigiTimes story.
Quanta already manufactures the BlackBerry PlayBook for Research In Motion and is reportedly building tablets for Sony that are set to debut this year.
Sources said that Amazon has been under pressure to release a tablet to compete with the iPad since Kindle sales haven't done well outside of North America and Europe. A new tablet would also tap into Amazon's recently opened AppStore and its new Amazon Cloud Drive.
Amazon may also be facing some competition from fellow bookseller Barnes & Noble. Sporting some recent enhancements, B&N's Nook Color has gotten a step closer to going from mere e-reader to full-fledged tablet. With a customized version of Android 2.2, support for Adobe Flash, built-in e-mail, and its own app store, the Nook offers many of the features found on today's tablets.
In a recent Forrester report, analyst Sarah Rotman Epps said she believes Amazon is one of the few major players that could do well in a market dominated by the iPad.
Epps said she thinks that Amazon can sell a low-cost tablet running Android or Linux, with access to its own retail store and the Android app store. Amazon could also sell a tablet unbound by the expensive data plans imposed by mobile carriers. Such a tablet would even sell at or below cost, she said, with Amazon earning the bulk of its profits by selling content. Epps added that above all, Amazon possesses the brand, the content, and the retail channel to tie it all together.
5/13/11: Corrected story to indicate that tablet would use E Ink's Fringe Field Switching LCD technology and not e-paper, according to sources.