Amazon readying 5-6 new tablets says Staples exec

Amazon is readying as many as six new tablet variants according to retailer Staples, with a 10-inch model confirmed among the line-up. Five or six SKUs are in the pipeline, Retail president Demos Parneros at Staples told Reuters, with a range of sizes on offer as Amazon attempts to further milk the digital content market for music, video, ebook and app sales.

It's worth noting that six new SKUs wouldn't necessarily mean six completely different tablets. Each SKU would relate to a single configuration: so, if Amazon had 16GB, 32GB and 64GB versions of a single Kindle Fire 10-inch model, for instance, each of those variants would have a different SKU code. Models that are WiFi-only or that include WiFi + 3G/4G would also bear different SKUs.

Currently, Amazon offers a single Kindle Fire variant, with 8GB of internal storage and no 3G/4G cellular data connection, and a 7-inch touchscreen. That model is expected to be updated in the face of Google's own Nexus 7, while a larger 10-inch version is also much-rumored, more directly challenging Apple's 9.7-inch iPad.

The boosted range is part of an overall strategy to "broaden its offering of devices beyond e-readers and the Kindle Fire tablet" insiders claim. That could well be related to a reported swelling of staff at Amazon's Lab126, the same development center that developed the original Kindle Fire; recent job listings at Lab126 have sought engineers with experience working with carrier certification and smartphone technology.

Amazon declined to comment on Parneros' comments, though it's tricky to decide whether the retailer might be frustrated at having its plans outed early, or keen to steal attention from the Nexus 7. Google has been forced to freeze orders of the 16GB variant of the Nexus 7 because of greater-than-expected demand.