We should've known this was coming. The Kindle may have made it to the gate first, but pretty soon Barnes and Noble had the Nook, with its mini-color touch screen. Then came the iPad and Nook Color, and now more people are reading on color touch screens, and expecting games and apps and things like that.
Now the rumors are in, and it sounds like Amazon is planning to enter the tablet market "with a bang." So what does it look like the future Kindle tablet will be like?
Android under the hood
This one's a gimme, for several reasons.
First, the Android operating system is open source, which basically means anyone can take it and do what they want with it. Including, say use it to get a head start in making a tablet. (Want to look at the programming code? Knock yourself out.) The tablet version of Android isn't open-source yet, but that hasn't stopped Barnes and Noble, which stretched the smartphone version of Android to fit on the Nook Color -- not that you'd recognize it after all the streamlining that B&N did.
Second, and this is the big one, Amazon's already got a lot invested in Android. And I don't just mean its Amazon.com and Amazon MP3 apps in the Android Market. See, there's an Amazon Appstore for Android, which actually competes with the Android Market. And the new Amazon Cloud Drive service lets you get to the MP3s you buy from Amazon.com from anywhere -- like, say, your Android smartphone, from the app that lets you do that.
Google plays hardball with its competitors, and can block them from installing official Google apps (which aren't open-source) on their devices. I'm betting Amazon feels it doesn't need them, especially with its own app store and music store.
"Medium" and "Large" sizes
Boy Genius Report supposedly got a tip that says Amazon's working on dual-core and quad-core tablets, code named "Coyote" and "Hollywood." Coyote's supposedly a Tegra 2 device -- that's Android Enthusiast speak for "really powerful." Hollywood's supposedly going to use the upcoming Kal-El platform, and if the fact that it's named after Superman doesn't tip you off, BGR reports that it may be five times more powerful than Coyote's processor.
Price and release date
As with all of the rest of this, it's still up in the air and nothing but rumor. But PCMag's Tim Bajarin says a tipster told him that Coyote (probably not the name it'll sell under) will be a 7-inch tablet that'll cost $349, while Hollywood will be a 10-inch tablet that costs $449. Both will supposedly be available "before 2011 ends."
These prices could just be wishful thinking, but Barnes and Noble did manage to sell a 7-inch tablet for $249. Maybe Amazon's making these tablets minimalist, like the Nook Color? And the release date seems likely, as it gives Amazon plenty of time to prepare for the holiday season -- and hopefully, for them, to upstage whatever Nook that Barnes and Noble comes out with next.
Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.