Amazon tablet: Why it's a big deal

An Amazon tablet would be a major development in consumer tech from a content and pricing standpoint.

Slowly but surely, the Amazon tablet is becoming one of the biggest tech rumors of 2011.

Every week, there seems be another story about this fabled device -- or series of devices. Most recently, PCMag reported that the Amazon tablet will ship in 7- and 10-inch configurations by the holidays, priced at $349 and $449, respectively, running on Nvidia's upcoming quad-core processors. Although Amazon won't officially confirm the existence of these tablets, CEO Jeff Bezos said to "stay tuned" when asked point blank about the devices by Consumer Reports.

What's the big deal here? After all, the tablet market is growing increasingly crowded with devices from Acer, Asus, HTC, Motorola, Research in Motion and Samsung. If you're looking for a tablet right now, there's no shortage of options.

Still, the Amazon tablet would be a major development in consumer tech. Let's take a step back and look at why:

The Content Problem

The scene for books, music and movies on Android devices is, for better or worse, a hodgepodge. As a user, you're free to snag e-books from Amazon, Google Books, Kobo or Barnes & Noble. Amazon is the de facto music and movie provider on many phones and tablets, but now you've got Google moving in with its own movie store and music player.

Freedom of choice is a wonderful thing, but Android still needs a single, simple solution built into the operating system. An Amazon tablet would likely provide this, integrating the retailer's media stores and players throughout the device. When a consumer wants to watch a movie, listen to music or read a book, there would be no confusion on where to go.

The Price Problem

We're starting to see some tablets beat Apple's iPad on price. The Asus Eee Pad Transformer costs $100 less with similar specs, at $400. The Acer Iconia Tab A500 costs $450. But these tablets makers have a fundamental problem: Once they've sold a device, their ability to make money on it greatly diminishes, because they're not in charge of selling content. These device makers may have partnerships with other content providers, or they may provide their own apps here and there, but because they don't control the entire flow of apps, music, movies and games, their best bet for profits is on hardware. That means higher upfront prices.

Amazon, meanwhile, can sell cut-rate hardware in hopes of making the money back on its music, movie, e-book and app stores. That explains why the latest Amazon tablet rumors point to such low prices, even when the devices are reportedly packed with cutting-edge quad-core processors.

The Android Problem

Here's where it gets a little touchy: Honeycomb, Google's tablet-optimized version of Android, is a bit of a mess. It's a powerful operating system -- essentially, Honeycomb is what you make of it based on the customizable widgets and apps that populate each screen -- but it's also a hostile experience if you don't know exactly what you want or don't care to customize. And I'm not just comparing Honeycomb to the iPad. Even the Blackberry PlayBook, which has its own issues, combines a straightforward presentation and powerful swipe gestures into an interface that beats all other tablets on the market.

We don't know what Amazon's tablet software will look like, but if it runs Android as rumored, I assume Amazon will retool the software to emphasize its own content, making it as easy to access as possible.

The iPad Problem

Even with Amazon's advantages, an Amazon tablet still needs an answer to a very basic question: Why would you buy it instead of an iPad? Good content won't be enough, because Apple already has that. Processing power could be a factor, but only if it makes for a significantly better experience than the one Apple provides. The mere existence of a 7-inch tablet could give Amazon something Apple doesn't have, but that doesn't help justify a 10-inch tablet alongside it.

Until we know more, it's impossible to say how Amazon might make the case for its tablet above all others. But the anticipation is what has the tech world so excited in the first place.

Follow Jared on Facebook and Twitter for even more tech news and commentary.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags amazon.comapple ipadGooglehardware systemsAndroidtabletstablet PCslaptopsRIM BlackBerrytablet PC

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jared Newman

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?