It would be foolish not to include Amazon on the list of potentially huge players in the tablet industry.
While the company is still only selling simple Kindle e-readers, Amazon has quietly built all the tools it needs to compete against Apple and the other tablet makers with its own Android-based tablets.
Amazon just launched its Android app store today. It could easily end up better than Google’s built-in Android Market. Why? Because Amazon cares about building a better storefront than Google. And because Amazon has better e-commerce tools and vision than just about anyone.
Amazon’s music store and video streaming service are as close to Apple’s iTunes as it gets. That’s one of the big problems with the Motorola Xoom, for example — nice, big screen, but no legit source of movies to stream. Amazon tablets would have an answer.
Amazon Prime members can stream unlimited movies and TV episodes from a small (but inevitably growing) library of content. That sounds like a great bonus feature for Amazon tablets.
Amazon has a massive distribution vehicle… in Amazon.com. This could allow it to sell tablets at lower prices because it doesn’t have to factor in a middle man.
When we surveyed Business Insider readers about where they would go to buy a tablet, some 17% picked Amazon — more than Best Buy. Amazon also has a growing field of Kindle retail partners, to complement web sales. We were surprised to see a Kindle display at Staples last night, but, yes, they sell the Kindle.
Amazon builds good hardware. The new Kindle is no iPad, but it’s definitely the best at what it’s trying to be — an e-reader. It’s slim, lightweight, and attractive. And Amazon has sold more Kindles over the last several years than most companies have sold of any tablet-shaped devices.
Amazon is ambitious and sees ahead of slower competitors. It was way ahead of the field with Amazon Web Services. We could see it making similarly smart, forward-thinking bets. The tablet market is far from figured out long-term.
Amazon is already trying to hire more Android people. As Nick Bilton noticed at the New York Times, Amazon’s Lab 126 division — which makes the Kindle — recently added at least five new jobs for developers with Android experience.
We wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon did something interesting in mobile advertising, either — another marketplace in which to disrupt the incumbents like Google.
Apple is clearly scared of Amazon. Why else would it sue over the term “app store?”
So, where would Amazon fit into the market? Probably not at the high end — it would be almost impossible to beat Apple in hardware or software quality, so Amazon probably won’t try.
But if it can design decent hardware, there’s no reason Amazon couldn’t compete with the likes of Motorola, HTC, and Samsung in the mid-level Android tablet market.
Especially if it could offer better built-in entertainment services, a better built-in app store, and lower pricing.
Related: How Amazon Saved The Kindle