Amazon is holding a mysterious press event Wednesday in New York, but the open secret is that the online retailing giant will use the event to announce its eagerly anticipated Kindle tablet. Widely believed to be the only firm aside from Microsoft that can successfully take on Apple's iPad in the burgeoning media tablet market, Amazon has been working on its Kindle tablet for years.
Rumors have routinely suggested that the first of what will likely be a family of Kindle tablets will feature a 7" color touch screen and run Google's Android mobile OS. The device is expected to cost much less than the iPad, which shouldn't be hard given Apple's top-shelf pricing structures. And of course it will integrate with Amazon's amazing array of Apple-like back-end services for music, video, audiobooks, ebooks, and apps.
Some have argued that Amazon's approach to the Kindle tablet is the exact opposite of Apple's approach with the iPad in that Amazon sells devices to further sales of its media and services whereas Apple sells media and services only to prop up its hardware sales. But this difference is meaningless to consumers, who should finally get a peek at what a full-featured iPad competitor looks like this week. My guess is that the similar ecosystems and lower pricing on the Amazon side will trigger an avalanche of Kindle tablet sales.
But there's another edge Amazon could be providing to the Kindle tablet. According to a report in The Daily Reader, there's currently unused code in the "manage your Kindle" web pages for existing Kindle devices that implies strong ties to Amazon's cloud computing storage scheme, Cloud Drive. And with Amazon already providing Kindle devices with free 3G wireless access, it's possible that the cloud could be a far more seamless—and free—experience on Kindle tablets than it is on the iPad.
Apple, of course, is racing to get its own cloud storage scheme, iCloud, ready for the public. But Amazon is already going much further than Apple will by allowing consumers to not just store their entire music collection in the cloud but also play it back from the cloud, in real time, from all kinds of devices. Apple's approach is far more limited and won't involve streaming playback. And that's just music: Amazon also offers cloud-based management of ebooks and audiobooks, the latter through its Audible subsidiary, and of other media types such as purchased TV shows and movies, which can also be streamed at any time.
We'll know more on Wednesday, of course. But if Amazon can come through on the expected pricing and functionality, it will almost certainly launch the first credible iPad competitor—note that I didn't use the overworked phrase "iPad killer"—this week. Stay tuned.