Amazon Android Forking Good For Kindle Tablet

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Amazon.com’s custom build of Android for its forthcoming Kindle Tablet could have major impact

Amazon.com’s customisation of Android for its Kindle Tablet could actually be better for the tablet market, according to a Creative Strategies analyst.

Earlier this month, TechCrunch reported that the seven-inch, full-colour Kindle Tablet will be based on Android 2.1, albeit with layers of customisation on top that make it look nothing like the builds Google has produced. The user interface, touch gestures and other features will be optimised for accessing Amazon content via its Website, which has just been upgraded with bigger buttons and spacing to make it more easily accessible using touch screens.

Amazon Brand Impetus

Some  industry watchers and Android developers would shrink from the notion of a new splinter of Android, but Creative Strategies analyst Tim Bajarin thinks it could be a good thing. Amazon’s brand could propel more development for its own content, creating a “better ecosystem” than currently exists for tablet users accessing Google’s Android Market store, Bajarin said in PCMag online magazine.

“Its reach is so broad that it can easily entice Android developers to create apps just for its version of the Android platform, sold exclusively through Amazon’s own Android store,” he added.

There are over 100 Honeycomb applications, compared with over 100,000 apps for Apple’s iPad. With Amazon behind it, the Kindle Tablet ecosystem could foster tens of thousands of apps, if not more. Bajarin also expects Amazon could produce a finely-tuned set of developer guidelines and tools governing all apps created for the Amazon tablet. Amazon has already proven its willingness to do this with its Amazon Appstore rules.

The result, combined with a sub-$300 (£190) price point, is a product that folks would classify as a winner. Bajarin explained:

  • Thanks to Amazon’s brand, the Kindle Tablet could quickly become the dominant Android tablet platform that developers support, with an Appstore that consumers will come to trust
  • Amazon would make it harder for Samsung, HTC and other Android tablet vendors to compete with itself and Apple. That is assuming Apple’s tablet litigation will not extend to Amazon to slow the emerging platform down, the way it has ground Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 shipments to a halt in some countries
  • Arguably, Amazon could ensure that Google and Motorola would create their own vertically-integrated approaches to the market. “They would build a more competitive platform to take on Apple and Amazon,” Bajarin said.
  • Amazon could worry Apple as the only tablet maker with considerable clout in brand, applications and content – where Apple is strongest.

One could easily quibble with the last point, if only because all Android tablets have failed miserably to date. Not everyone is as sanguine as Forrester Research, which expects the e-commerce giant could sell three million to five million units in the fourth quarter.

Barclays analyst Anthony DiClemente predicted Amazon will see only two million Android tablets in 2011. However, that number could soar to 6.4 million in 2012, which is not bad, but far less than the nearly 50 million iPads DiClemente expects to see shipping in 2012.

It is hard to see how 6.4 million Kindle Tablets sold could be construed as competition for 50 million iPads. But it is nice to know someone else with staying power is trying. Amazon could make the run up to Christmas interesting.

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