People familiar with tomorrow’s planned launch of Amazon’s first tablet computer — named the Kindle Fire — say the company has been on a tear to secure movies and TV shows that will make it competitive with other content distributors. It recently lined up Fox and CBS, but also has deals with NBC Universal, Sony, and Warner Bros. Yet Amazon isn’t expected to position the Kindle Fire as a potential iPad killer. The Kindle Fire will feature a carousel that makes it easy for users to buy and access videos, music, text, and apps from the online retailer. But the device also is expected to accommodate rival content services such as Netflix and Hulu. How easy will it be to access them? Still unclear.
The device will run on a highly modified version of Google’s Android operating system, and Amazon’s kept a tight lid on many of the details about the changes it has made to the open platform. A lot also will depend on the idiosyncrasies of the Kindle Fire’s chip sets and digital rights management system. Content owners have been lobbying for tough DRM standards even though that has “hampered the entire Android ecosystem” and “prevents a competing force against Apple,” says Gilles BianRosa CEO of Fanhattan, which makes an iPad entertainment search app.
But Amazon realizes that the Kindle Fire is entering a competitive market dominated by the iPad, and could flame out if consumers see it as just an Amazon buying machine. The inexpensive device with a 7-inch screen is designed to compare favorably with Barnes & Noble’s Nook and give Amazon a sexy product to sell this holiday season. The company’s challengers to the iPad should arrive next year: more powerful tablets with code names Coyote (for the 7-inch model) and Hollywood (for the 10-inch one).