On TechCrunch yesterday, MG Siegler reported that the name of Amazon’s Android tablet that it is unveiling tomorrow will be the Kindle Fire. The Fire will not be ready to ship until late November, he says. It will bear a strong physical resemblance to RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook because it was designed and built by Quanta, the company that designed and manufactures the PlayBook. However, it will be running Amazon’s heavily-customized version of Android rather than the PlayBook’s QNX. (Hopefully it will sell better than the PlayBook has been.)
Amazon has been working on getting more content providers on board, as well, cutting a deal with Fox to bring movies and TV series including 24 and Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Amazon Prime—and, not coincidentally, to its tablet. And several major magazine publishers have signed on with Amazon as well (though some, such as Time Inc., are still holding out over terms similar to the ones they’ve disliked from Apple).
Siegler has some more details about the on-board hardware of the Fire. It use a TI dual-core OMAP chip, and Siegler guesses the speed to be 1.2 GHz, which will make it much faster than the current Nook Color’s single-core 800 MHz chip. But he also has some details about the forthcoming Nook Color 2, which will be using the 1.2 GHz chip and base its OS on Android 2.3. (Fire’s is based on 2.1.)
Finally, Siegler notes some rumors about the tablet’s pricing. It had been thought to be $250, the same as the Nook Color’s, but Siegler has heard “whispers” that it might be $300 instead. And he’s also heard rumors that the free Amazon Prime may not be included with the tablet after all. Perhaps, he suggests, there could be two versions: just the tablet for $250, or tablet + Prime for $300 (which would still offer a savings over Prime’s usual $79 price).
However, one analyst differs with Siegler’s take in a few important respects. At AppleInsider, Josh Ong has information from Concord Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo who expects the device, codenamed “Hollywood”, to launch not in late November but in late September—that is, that Amazon will be shipping it as soon as it reveals it. Kuo also expects Amazon could price the device as low as $199, rather than $250.
The analyst doesn’t see Amazon’s forthcoming 7-inch tablet as aimed at the iPad. Instead, Kuo believes the "Hollywood" project is meant to test the waters for future tablet releases primed for release in 2012. According to him, the retailer is working on a 10.1-inch device, codenamed "Coyote," that will directly compete with Apple’s iPad when it arrives in early 2012. The company is also reportedly preparing an 8.9-inch tablet with an "amazing form factor" for release in the second half of 2012, though suppliers are said to be having a tough time meeting Amazon’s requirements for the device.
And Kuo notes the Fire is not going to be the only new device announced tomorrow—Amazon will also come out with two new versions of its e-ink Kindle: a low-end version, code-named “Tequila”, which could come in at under $100, and a higher-end version, code-named “Whitney”, with features left out of “Whitney” including 3G and touch-screen controls.
Kuo expects Amazon to ship 8 million “Tequila”, 4 million “Whitney”, and 3 million “Hollywood” (Fire) units by the end of the year. He believes a total of 28 million e-readers will have shipped by the end of 2011, with Amazon maintaining a 68% market share.
Of course, as reticent as Amazon has been with its numbers, it’s unclear where Kuo is getting his figures, so all this can be taken with a grain of salt. But regardless of the exact details, Amazon is just about to change the e-reader market again tomorrow, and I’m sure they still have some surprises left in store.
(As an aside, ever since I heard that the new Kindle tablet is going to be called the Fire, I just haven’t been able to get this song out of my head.)