After months of rumors and speculation about Amazon’s tablet plans, TechCrunch’s MG Siegler broke some solid details.
Reportedly dubbed the new “Amazon Kindle,” this 7-inch tablet will use a heavily-modified version of Android, without any involvement from Google. The interface will be laser-focused on delivering Amazon content to the user. There will be no Android Market and no Google apps, Siegler reports. The hardware is reportedly bare-bones, with no cameras and possibly a single-core processor. The price is reportedly $250.
Even though Amazon’s tablet will be based on Android, the new Kindle sounds like the antithesis of an Android tablet, which is to say that if you’re the type of techie that loves, roots for, is obsessed with or is otherwise fascinated by Android, Amazon’s tablet won’t be for you*.
Google’s Android operating system has a reputation for being kinda geeky. It’s complicated in ways that Apple’s iOS is not, with its four navigation buttons, hidden drawer of apps, and home screen widgets. The upside is that it’ll let you do things that iOS never will without jailbreaking the device. You can install an alternate user interface, load apps from outside the Android Market and connect external hardware such as mouses, game controllers and hard drives.
Those are all things that I really like about Android, as someone who enjoys tweaking and customizing tech products to better suit my needs. But those are also the things that keep ordinary users away from the platform, particularly in tablets. Have you ever checked out an Android Honeycomb tablet at Best Buy? On every display unit, a mess of widgets and app icons are scattered haphazardly across each screen. Casual users have no idea what’s going on with these things, so all they end up doing is making the software look ugly. No wonder no one’s buying them.
From Siegler’s report, it seems that Amazon is trying to overcome this sloppiness by erasing much of what Google has done. Amazon has created its own Android “fork,” split off from an earlier, open-source version of the Android software. And it’s created its own interface. The top of the screen will reportedly hold a cover flow-like carousel of books, apps, movies and so on. The bottom of the screen holds a dock, to which your favorite items can be pinned. The device will have no physical buttons on the face, Siegler writes. All navigation is handled through a menu that appears when tapping the screen once.
In other words, it’s a dead-simple design. Provide the content up-front. Make it easy to buy more. Slim down the navigation options. No widgets. No mouses. No Launcher Pro. (And as the Guardian points out, Amazon has a secret weapon: your credit card information already on file.)
If Amazon has a chance to compete with Apple’s iPad, simplicity will be the reason. And while I’d be happy to see the iPad get some real competition—always a good thing for consumers—it’d be a bittersweet outcome for people like me. Simplicity will reign. The geeks will have lost.
*(Unless, of course, someone figures out how to hack it.)
(MORE: Amazon CEO Teases Tablet Plans)