Rumours that Amazon plans to join the likes of Samsung and Motorola, by launching a tablet PC to rival the popularity of Apple's iPad have been gaining momentum since the start of the year. UPDATED SEPTEMBER 27: TechCrunch claims tablet PC will be called the Amazon Fire.
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SEE ALSO: Amazon Fire launch: as it happens
In fact, it appears so likely that Amazon will launch its own rival to Apple's tablet PC, that Forrester Research even recently published a report predicting that if the Amazon tablet is launched before the end of Q4, it could easily sell three million to five million units, outselling all iPad competitors.
Amazon has kept mum on any potential plans to launch a tablet PC, although CEO Jeff Bezos said in an interview with Consumer Reports' earlier this year that tablet fans should 'stay tuned' on the company's plans.
However, Amazon.com sent out invitations to a press event, which will take place in in New York City this Wednesday (28), which has lead many to speculate it could be the unveiling of the online retailer's long-expected tablet computer.
"Please join us for an Amazon.com press conference," the invite reads. Amazon.com wouldn't comment on the nature of the event, but given the timing, many believe it will be regarding Amazon's Android tablet, which according to TechCrunch will be named the Amazon Fire. According to the gadget website, the device will be launched at Amazon' press event this week but won't be shipped in the US until the second week on November. However, the website didn't speculate on when the tablet PC might hit UK shelves.
Earlier this year, Tech Crunch even claimed to have got its hands on the tablet, despite Amazon refusing to confirm the device's existence.
In July the Wall Street Journal claimed sources close to Amazon had revealed the device would launch in October – a release date which has also been touted by DigiTimes, who claim a 7in Amazon tablet PC will start shipping in October with mass production of a larger 10.1in to be conducted in the first quarter of 2012. Furthermore, the Taiwanese site claimed Quanta Computer, which currently handles production of the BlackBerry Playbook, will supply the 7in device while, Foxconn, who produced the iPad 2 and Amazon's Kindle e-book reader, will handle orders of the larger tablet PC.
TechCrunch claims Amazon had planned to launch two versions; 7in and 10in, at the same time but this plan has since changed and they’re now looking on a November launch of the 7in device.
'If it’s a hit, they will release the more expensive 10in tablet in Q1 2012,' the website said.
Specification details for the tablet PC are sketchy. The Boy Genius Report claims there will be an entry-level tablet (presumably the 7in device), codenamed 'Coyote' that will feature a dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 chip, while the 'Hollywood' will be the larger higher-end tablet PC and will sport the new 'Kal-El' quad-core mobile chip.
First announced in February during Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the new Kal-El quad-core chip is capable of displaying 1440p video on a 2,560x1,600 pixel display. Nvidia also claimed the chips can help deliver up to 12 hours of battery life.
However, the source cited by the Wall Street Journal earlier this year, claimed the tablet PC would have a 9in display.
TechCrunch says the Design Verification Testing (DVT) unit it saw came with a 7in capacitive multi-touch back-lit colour screen that supports two finger gestures rather than ten, like Apple’s iPad. Furthermore, it runs a single-core chip and has just 6GB of internal storage. Described by TechCrunch as looking “very similar in terms of form-factor” to a BlackBerry PlayBook, the back of the device, which is black, is rubbery, the power button is underneath if you’re holding it vertically, there’s a micro-USB port, speakers at the top of the device but no camera.
Gdgt says the device's similarity to the PlayBook is because the Amazon Fire was designed and built by Quanta, the same original design manufacturer (ODM) as the PlayBook in a bid to ensure the tablet PC was released in time for the festive period.
Although the operating system seems to be something most speculators agree on. Honeycomb, the version of Google Android platform designed specifically for tablet PCs, looks likely to be the tablet PC's operating system. Motorola's Xoom was the first Android tablet to utilise the Honeycomb platform and since then others have been announced including Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 and the Toshiba AT100. However, TechCrunch says that while the device runs Google Android it 'looks nothing like the Android you’re used to seeing'.
'The interface is all Amazon and Kindle. It’s black, dark blue, and a bunch of orange. The main screen is a carousel that looks like Cover Flow in iTunes which displays all the content you have on the device,' TechCrunch says.
'This includes books, apps, movies, etc. Below the main carousel is a dock to pin your favourite items in one easy-to-access place. When you turn the device horizontally, the dock disappears below the fold.'
But the website says Google’s Android Market is nowhere to be found. 'In fact, no Google app is anywhere to be found,' TechCrunch said.
'This is Android fully forked. My understanding is that the Kindle OS was built on top of some version of Android prior to 2.2. And Amazon will keep building on top of that of that over time. In other words, this won’t be getting Honeycomb or Ice Cream Sandwich - or if it does, users will never know it because that will only be the underpinnings of the OS. Any visual changes will be all Amazon.'
TechCrunch goes as far as to state that Amazon are 'not are not working with Google on this. At all'.
Owners of the tablet PC are also expected to be able to make use of Amazon's Android app store that offers software for devices running Google Android. Earlier this year Amazon also launched Cloud Player and Cloud Drive, a web-based music player and storage system respectively, that would mean users of the Amazon tablet PC could access and play their multimedia content from the device without having to store files on its memory.
TechCrunch backs up this theory.
'The key for Amazon is just how deeply integrated all of their services are. Amazon’s content store is always just one click away. The book reader is a Kindle app (which looks similar to how it does on Android and iOS now). The music player is Amazon’s Cloud Player. The movie player is Amazon’s Instant Video player. The app store is Amazon’s Android Appstore,' the website says.
The source cited by the Wall Street Journal also claimed it's unlikely the device will be manufactured by Amazon itself. Instead it will be produced by an Asian manufacturer. It is also thought not to feature a camera, which may disappoint some tablet fans.
Researcher at Forrester, Sarah Epps, speculated that the Amazon tablet could come with a $299 price tag in the US, that nearly half the price of many existing Android tablets, and while the price would initially result in a loss for Amazon, it could help to send sales soaring. There's no doubt that a cheaper price point can cause a surge in sales. After all, HP recently revealed it will manufacture another batch of its TouchPad tablet PC, following 'unfulfilled demand' after it slashed the price to $99 in the US and £89 in the UK on announcing it was to discontinue the device. Epps says the $299 (£183) price tag closer to what most consumers want to pay for a tablet, based on a Forrester survey.
However, some rumours on the web suggest the tablet PC might be a little higher in price. Earlier this year PCMag speculated the Amazon tablet would be priced at $349 (£214) for the 7in configuration while the 10.1in version would cost $449 (£275). TechCrunch claism the device will be priced at $250 (£154). No-one has yet to speculate on what the UK price may be.