As widely expected, Amazon will indeed be launching an Android-based tablet device before the end of this year. Rather than a launching a new product line, the company is simply updating its existing Kindle product to be a full color, multi-touch, 7" tablet that will sell for $250.
Several details about the device, which has been rumored for the last year or so, were revealed by Techcrunch's M.G. Siegler, who had a chance to see it and test it out.
In terms of its form factor, Siegler describes a black, Blackberry Playbook-style device with a rubber back and little in the way of physical buttons. Instead, the UI is mostly touch-based. While it's based on Android, it appears to be a fork of the original OS, radically altered to match Amazon's branding. The result is a design and user experience that bears only a limited resemblance to what Android users are used to.
Instead of Google's apps, the device will be tightly integrated with Amazon's services. In addition to the obvious choice of the Kindle app for reading, it will sport Amazon Cloud Player for music, Instant Video Player for movies and even Amazon's Android App Store, rather than Google's. Presumably Amazon will continue to build out this new fork of Android independently of Google, which explains why they've been hiring so many Android developers.
The device is expected to launch in late November and if it sells well, we may see a 10-inch version before long.
Rumors first started circulating that Amazon was working on a tablet device late last summer. Since then, that speculation turned into inevitable reality as more details leaked and Amazon began ordering the parts necessary to build a device with a touch screen. Even though the product has not been formally announced, analysts are already scrambling to predict what kind of an impact it will have. Forrester, for example, has said the device could sell as many as 5 million units in the fourth quarter.
At $250, the new Kindle will cost half as much as the least expensive iPad, which currently dominates the tablet market in the U.S.