Amazon’s iPad Rival May Not Land Until 2012

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Amazon’s apparently not in a huge rush to send a 10-inch tablet to market. Anonymous sources tell DigiTimes that Amazon’s first tablet will be a 7-inch model, and that mass production on a true iPad rival with a 10.1-inch display will begin in the first quarter of 2012.

If the rumor’s accurate, it would mean that Amazon is first setting its sights on Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color, which has a 7-inch touch screen and sells for a mere $250. We’ve heard rumors lately that Amazon’s first tablet will be "hundreds" of dollars cheaper than Apple’s $499 iPad, so the idea of Amazon launching a 7-inch, low-end tablet in the $200 to $300 range seems plausible.

(MORE: Amazon Tablet Pricing: How Low Could It Go?)

But a 7-inch tablet wouldn’t be a true competitor to the iPad. Tablets of this size are niche products (don’t get me wrong; I’m part of the niche that loves ’em), whereas the iPad, with its 9.7-inch display, is the standard.

With a 10-inch Android tablet, Amazon would be entering a field that is so far unproven. Tablets such as the Motorola Xoom and Samsung Galaxy 10.1 have failed to make a dent in iPad sales, and for good reason: Honeycomb, the version of Android that these tablets use, doesn’t have a lot of great tablet apps, and the operating system still has some rough edges.

Tech watchers speculate that Amazon will heavily modify the Android operating system, which could smooth over some of the software’s trouble spots while emphasizing Amazon’s own storefronts for digital content. If this customization is what’s holding up a 10-inch Amazon tablet, I wouldn’t fault the company for taking its time. The last thing we need in an iPad rival is another unfinished product.

MORE: Tablets: ‘Why Should Somebody Buy This Instead of an iPad?’