It's widely expected that tomorrow in New York, Amazon will unveil its much-anticipated tablet, the device many headline writers promise will at least maim the iPad, if not commit a full-blown 187 on its ass. So why does it feel like the year the Sega Genesis came out and I got a clearance-shelf Sega Master system for Christmas?
Probably because the tablet that we'll reportedly see Jeff Bezos introduce this week--the Kindle Fire, a 7-inch, backlit tablet modeled after RIM's PlayBook with Wi-Fi only and no camera--is not the coolest tablet Amazon has been working on.
Since the spring, we've heard rumors, tips from anonymous sources, and analysts all describing Amazon's work on two tablets--a 7-incher and a 10-inch version that could feature all sorts of goodies, including free 3G, free Amazon Prime, and a dual-mode option that makes it possible to flip between a backlight and e-ink.
But for the past month, it seems that Amazon has decided to turn its attention to getting out only the smaller tablet for the holiday shopping season. Unfortunately, the tablet/e-reader/whatever that will be introduced tomorrow will likely be the one we've known all summer by its code name, "Coyote"--a scavenging canine that feeds on nature's scraps in its most harsh environments--and not the larger one with all the sweet goodies code-named "Hollywood"--the center of all that is decadent and glamorous in our universe.
There's an outside chance that both tablets could be introduced tomorrow, but most reports have the big-time 10-inch Hollywood tab following the 7-incher at some point next year.
So what gives? Why does Amazon seem determined to come out of the gate into the crowded tablet arena armed with a half-charged taser instead of a bazooka?
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Apparently, Amazon has decided it doesn't want to compete head-to-head with the iPad. More likely, it's got its eyes on the Nook 2, which is supposed to be dropping any day now. The Nook has already become a popular choice with folks looking for a basic tablet that's much cheaper than the iPad. The Amazon tablet isn't expected in stores before November, so the early announcement could be a move to preempt the next Nook.
Another possibility is that Amazon wouldn't be able to deliver on the hype surrounding the expected low price-point of its tablet debut with the bigger "Hollywood" tablet and all its supposed bells and whistles. With all the talk about a possible "loss leader" from Amazon to push tablets into the hands of potential shoppers, coupled with the rush on discontinued $99 HP TouchPads, another new $500 tablet might have a hard time wooing consumers away from the iPad.
Even so, it seems like now is the time to go big or stay home. A dual-mode Kindle/tablet hybrid with free 3G sure sounds like an easy sell for the hot new gift item of the holiday season to me, even if it does cost more than $300. Besides, between now and 2012 is an eternity in tech time. By then we might be anticipating the latest entry into the tablet market by Netflix or Hulu or--why not?--CBS Interactive!
Carpe diem, Mr. Bezos. How about a ticket to Hollywood for 4 million to 7 million of your closest friends?