It seems that Amazon has finally decided to make a color e-reader to compete with the nook color. If MG Siegler’s report is to be believed (and he’s not generally known for spraying bullshit stories) then Amazon is currently working on a 7” tablet that is running pre-2.2 Android. While I was reading the story I started off angry and then sort of leveled off at intrigued.
The reason I didn’t stay angry at the thought of a mini-tablet running an OS that wasn’t designed for tablets is because of what has been done to the OS. As you may know already, Android can be used without Google services (Gmail, Search, Maps, Market, etc.) if the hardware manufacturer chooses. The reason we haven’t seen it before now is that most manufacturers were putting out phones that would benefit from (and suffer without) the addition of Google’s services. Even as the tablets came out, it made sense to have everything integrated simply because of Gmail and Market.
But here is where Amazon takes a sharp turn and moves away from that. They are building on top of Android to make something that is unique to the new Kindle. Instead of just a user interface skin, this is more of a full-conversion modification. From the way Siegler describes it, Android is simply a foundation on top of which the Kindle OS is resting. It doesn’t use any of Google’s services because it doesn’t need them. This isn’t a mildly confused reader or a gimped tablet. They are going all-in and utilizing all of their own services to flesh out the useability of the system. Cloud Player for music, Instant Video for watching movies, and Amazon Android Appstore for apps.
I’ll be honest, I am kinda having trouble seeing the downside to this thing. If Amazon markets it properly (and you know they will) this could be massive. A color e-reader that isn’t bogged down with running anything other than the essentials? This is most definitely a good thing. It won’t matter that it only has 6 GB of storage because the only thing that will be stored on the device will be your books and apps. Everything else will be in one of Amazon’s cloud services, which will free up a lot of space. And if they move forward with the plan to give a free Amazon Prime subscription to people that purchase the new Kindle, that would pretty much be one amazing reason to buy this instead of a nook color.
The only thing I can think of that might keep the nook color alive would be if Amazon went out of their way to lock down the bootloader à la Motorola, then the nook would still have a place in the hack/root community as an easily hackable mini-tablet. If they go the totally-open route, that could put the nook color in a bad place unless they drop the price. If you’re paying the same price for your little mini-tablet as the other guy but the other guy is offering free Amazon Prime, no sane consumer would choose the one without Amazon Prime. You don’t even have to use Amazon all that often for a free Prime membership to be uninteresting.
This is one of those things that I’ll reserve final judgment for until I see a final product on the shelves. I can definitely see potential, but that doesn’t always translate into profits.