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April 2011
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Is the Kindle Moving to Android?

In recent days there has been a great deal of speculation on the possible implications of “Lab 126″, the Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) development group that came up with the Kindle, posting some job openings for Android developers.  The immediate speculation has been all about tablets and the potential for the next generation of Kindle to be one.  It’s an interesting thought.

Honestly, I think that at this point the evidence is fairly overwhelming that an Amazon Tablet PC is on the way.  Between this development, the opening of the Amazon App Store, and the obvious success of the Nook Color as a mini-tablet, the signs just point that way.  The big question is what this will mean for the Kindle.  It is possible that this will be a new incarnation of the Kindle, a divergent line of Kindle products, or even a completely new and independent effort(I vote for calling it the “Table” if they go this way).

The one place I personally don’t see this going is a direct sequel to the existing Kindle eReader.  While I wouldn’t put it past Amazon to have decided on a screen technology they like and attempted to never let on to anybody, by this point it would probably have gotten out in some way.  I also cannot see them moving to an LCD eReader after enjoying the kind of success they’ve had to date with the E Ink technology, especially after the last few ad campaigns.

Even if they go with a Kindle Spin-off, or even a fresh product line, however, we have to wonder if a migration of the Kindle line over to Android is in the works.  On the one hand, the existing Kindle software development has gone in another direction and it would seem a bit weird to just throw all that away.  On the other, why maintain two completely distinct software solutions when you could manage it on one?  The original Nook proved fairly well that you can run Android on an eReader without needing it to be a fully functional tablet.

The one place where all these ideas and speculations fall apart is in the fact that Lab 126 seems to be an entirely eReader centered endeavor.  Their website’s vision statement actually begins with “We develop and design wireless electronic reading devices”, so it might be a stretch to say that this is going to be a major tablet release.  Of course, that’s reflective of the current state of things.  It would seem to imply though, that anything coming out of the group will be centered on expanding the Kindle product line.  While I suppose that an Amazon equivalent to the Nook Color would probably go over well, especially with an established App Store to link to at launch already, I simply can’t see that as being the long-term goal.

My preferences definitely tend toward either a serious iPad competitor or a color Kindle that makes use of something along the lines of the Mirasol displays.  That’s just me, of course.  All this is speculation for now, but I’m definitely looking forward to seeing where this all ends up.

6 comments to Is the Kindle Moving to Android?

  • Personally, I think Amazon is likely to be in league with HP. My expectation is that they will have licensed the coming small form factor webOS tablet, apparently set to arrive in the fall (Sept?). My guess would be that it would be limited to WiFi (many smartphones are now coming with hotspot capabilities anyway, aiding mobile use) and that it would not be hobbled in the manner of the Nook Color, but that Amazon may stir things up by subsidizing purchase price by introduction of a variety of subscription plans, providing X books/month and/or Y magazine subscriptions/year in exchange for a reduced purchase price.

    All theory, of course. But HP’s Jon Rubenstein IS on Amazon’s board of directors now — since Dec 2010…

  • Adam

    Amazon aligning themselves with HP makes zero sense. Amazon just unveiled an Android App Store. Of course they’ll be doing Android.

  • Benhamish

    They design and sell an android reading device, but will they allow anyone to develop a book marketplace for that device??

    I suppose they won’t need to if we move to a pay after reading system, but the chances of that are pretty slim, better than null though.

  • Alaia

    April Fools?

  • David Lang

    Amazon doesn’t need to kill the kindle to make a tablet.

    the kindle is already running linux, changing it to run the android flavor of linux under the covers, but with the exact same look and feel would not be a monumental job, so they could have both a tablet line and a kindle line benefiting from sharing design and OS level resources while still having the nice dedicated e-reader capabilities that the kindle currently has.

    In fact, it would probably make it easier to add new features to the kindle as you would more easily be able to port things like browsers or pdf readers over.

    but the android based kindle will probably _not_ get the android logo on it, because to use that they have to do a lot of things in userspace that make sense on a phone of tablet, but not on a dedicated e-reader (and which also are highly questionable on a e-ink display)

    given how much amazon is pushing the benefits of the e-ink display compared to the ipad’s LCD, I don’t see any chance of them abandoning the e-ink display.

    as for the pixelQI display, it’s good, but it still eats significantly more power than the e-ink display, so I don’t see them moving to that for the e-reader (although I would love to see them use that for the tablet)

  • As long as they stick with e-ink then I’d be really happy to see the next generation of Kindles running Android. e-ink is fantastic (for clarity and battery life) and I love reading books on my Kindle but for me the weakest part of the current device is the terrible menu structure and navigation. Although Amazon is a huge company, I suspect that the Kindle is the product of a relatively small team and they’ve struggled to build all the hardware and software from scratch (just look at how much the device has changed since Kindle1). Hopeully switching to Android bring big improvements to the user experience.

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