Amazon May Build an Affordable Tablet with Apple-ish Personality

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For those of you keeping score: We got the first iPad about a year ago, then nothing for a long time, then a brief and expensive blip on the radar called the Samsung Galaxy Tab, then nothing for a long time, then the Motorola Xoom, followed a couple weeks later by the iPad 2, and now all hell’s breaking loose. The BlackBerry Playbook is here, a pair of aggressively-priced Android tablets from Acer and Asus will be here next week, T-Mobile’s 4G/3D tablet just came out, HP’s TouchPad will be here in a few months—and now it looks like Amazon might be getting set to build its own tablet.

Of these recently-released and upcoming tablets, the idea of an Amazon tablet is by far the most compelling.

As Peter Rojas reports, “It’s something of an open secret that Amazon is working on an Android tablet,” and, “I think Amazon is uniquely positioned to layer in a set of products and services that would differentiate its tablet from the flood of Android tablets hitting the market this year.” Rojas co-founded Gizmodo, Engadget and most recently, GDGT.

Think about what Amazon has that few other tablet makers have: stuff to sell to people. Not only physical stuff, but digital music, movies and books, too. That opens up a world of possibilities for an Amazon tablet. Built-in music store? Check. Built-in movie store? Check. Built-in book store? Check. And don’t forget about Amazon’s new Android app store. It seemed like an odd move at first glance but would make perfect sense for an Amazon tablet.

In the interest of selling stuff to people, Amazon would theoretically be able to charge less for its tablet than competitors, with the hopes of recouping some of its losses through the sale of media and physical goods from its store. Rojas says, “If they’re smart, they’ll be aggressive here and price the tablet at no more than $250,” and adds, “A retail price of $199 would be better still.”

That’d be an amazing price point but it’d likely come with some strings attached, as Rojas points out. For starters, we’d probably be talking about a 7-inch tablet here. And second, it likely wouldn’t be a full-blown, totally open Android experience—though you could hack it, if needed. It’d probably be closer to Barnes & Noble’s $250 Nook Color e-reader, but Rojas contends that “most users would accept the trade-off if it meant a much lower price of entry. And besides, Amazon will probably have a big enough library of apps by launch to help ease the pain of living in a walled garden.”

Walled garden or not, Amazon seems perfectly poised to build a tablet that’d be able to offer an integrated experience closely resembling what Apple’s been able to do with the iPad. And Apple has proven that if everything works together harmoniously, people don’t mind a walled garden all that much.

This quip from Rojas sums it up pretty well:

“Amazon understands what’s at stake, and while they aren’t a consumer electronics company, they have shown with the Kindle that they can produce a great product and then expertly tie that product into a content platform. I’m not sure I can stress how non-trivial an accomplishment this is, especially for a company that’s mainly known as a retailer. There are full-fledged consumer electronics companies that still haven’t figured this stuff out.”

There’s no word on when such a tablet would launch, but Rojas thinks it may be “no later than this summer” as evidenced by the fact that Amazon already has “all the pieces in place” on the content side of things—an app store, an e-book store, a streaming video store and a streaming music product.

More on TIME.com:

Amazon Announces e-Book Lending Partnership with Local Libraries

Amazon’s Streaming Music Service, Cloud Player, Goes Live

Amazon’s Netflix-Style Video Service Free for ‘Prime’ Members

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