Amazon may not have just one Android tablet in the works, but a whole range of devices using the Google open-source OS. That’s the latest rumor, anyway, shared with Android and Me by a trusted “industry insider” who claims the much-speculated slate is only one of Amazon’s “family of devices” headed to its virtual shelves this coming holiday season.
Hardware specifications are in short supply, and indeed it’s not entirely clear which members make up this new family. That could mean a range of tablets – perhaps spanning the 5-inch through to 10-inch form-factors, with maybe 7- and/or 8.9-inch models in-between – or indeed it might see Amazon push out a smartphone-scale device of its own. Amazon might also be considering a set-top box.
That flexibility is because the retailer is expected to use Android Ice Cream Sandwich, Google’s homogenized platform for phones, tablets and Google TV STBs. Amazon is believed to have outsourced development of the software environment to an embedded systems specialist, which will cook up a distinctively different UI for the new range.
As for the holiday launch, the tipsters supposedly “gave the impression” that Amazon was working with Google on the family of devices, shaping up for a Q4 release with Ice Cream Sandwich onboard. There’s also likely to be bundled and subsidized data options, with WiFi and/or 3G; the display, meanwhile, is said by some insiders to use Pixel Qi technology, though Amazon may well be looking at alternatives like Qualcomm’s mirasol.
Qualcomm recently showed off a prototype ereader/tablet design using an LED front-illuminated mirasol screen. That technology was tipped to show up in commercial designs sometime this fall; it’s unclear if they will have Amazon’s brand on them, at this stage. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos recently told Consumer Reports that while color E Ink panels are “not ready for prime time” as “the colors are very pale,” that “it makes a lot of sense for there to be a low-power, reflective color display. I think that’s something you could build a fantastic product around.”
Much will depend on pricing, of course, but with Amazon’s strength in the marketplace – and the persistent sales success of the Kindle – it would be naive to think it wouldn’t flex that dominance to make its Android devices look competitive against the other tablets it ranges.