Samsung May Build Custom Amazon Android Tablet

Amazon is rumoured to be working on a low-cost tablet that could run a customised version of Google’s Android

Engadget and gdgt co-founder Peter Rojas added another layer to the slowly peeling meme about an Amazon tablet when he said he’s almost positive the e-commerce giant is having Samsung build a device to compete with Apple’s iPad.

However, Rojas said Amazon might run a custom version of Android rather than employ Android 3.0 or “Honeycomb”, Google’s tablet OS du jour.

Kindle for Android

Amazon just launched its Kindle for Android application for Honeycomb to accommodate the more than a dozen Honeycomb tablets coming to market this year. That doesn’t mean it’s wedded to the OS build.

“It’s entirely possible that Amazon’s tablet, like [Barnes & Noble’s] Nook Colour, will use Android as a base upon which to build a totally customised experience that tightly integrates Amazon services,” Rojas wrote on 21 April. “That integration would let Amazon charge a lot less for its tablet than it would otherwise.”

Amazon would use such a low-cost tablet – think $200 (£120) to $300 – to extend its current web services, including thousands of books from the Kindle Store, movies and TV content from Amazon Instant Video and music from its new Cloud Drive digital storage locker.

Amazon also has built its Amazon Appstore for Android to rival Google’s Android Market, which Rojas read as the biggest indication Amazon is building a new touch-screen device.

Amazon of course won’t confirm or deny it is building a tablet. When asked about the reason for building an Android application store when Google, Verizon and others offer one, an Amazon spokesperson told eWEEK: “An Appstore is a logical next step for Amazon. We take mobile shopping very seriously, and across the company, we are working hard to make great products and services available on mobile devices.”

A tablet would certainly help Amazon extend and expand its mobile shopping domain past the broad Kindle ecosystem.

Low-cost slate

If there is any consensus emerging from the Amazon-tablet-as-iPad-challenger gestalt, it’s that Amazon must be building a low-cost slate, perhaps subsidised to make people think twice about shelling out $499 to $829 for an iPad 2.

Rojas’ theorising comes one week after Instapaper application creator Marco Arment suggested Amazon could use the ad-supported model it just introduced for the Kindle to provide a low-cost iPad challenger.

Most analysts like the idea of an Amazon tablet as a meaningful challenger to the current iPad hegemony Apple is cultivating.

Forrester Research analyst Sarah Rotman Epps breathed life into the idea when she wrote in a blog post March 10 that Amazon could create a compelling Android- or Linux-based tablet and entice users with applications from its Amazon Appstore for Android and features such as one-click purchasing, Amazon Prime service and its recommendations engine.

Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi, who projected Android would command 40 percent tablet market share by 2015, appreciates the notion.

“Considering they have now an app store to add to music video and books content, why not?” Milanesi told eWEEK. “Tablets are a big opportunity, and rather than trying to add too much to the Kindle, I think Amazon is wise to come up with a different approach.”

Milanesi wondered whether Amazon would label such a device as Amazon, Kindle or using a new brand.