To all the companies who released new tablets this week, I have some bad news. They don’t matter. And not because of the iPad’s dominance. It’s because the Amazon tablet is coming. Maybe you didn’t hear me right: THE AMAZON TABLET IS COMING! Sorry, Lenovo IdeaPad A1, a $199 price tag alone won’t be enough to move the needle. Toshiba AT200, you’re sexy thin, but full-sized ports won’t win over the masses.
I know, I know, the Amazon tablet isn’t even a real product yet. And that’s exactly why the buzz surrounding this unreleased gadget should scare the crap out of the competition. In July, a Retrevo study showed that 55 percent of tablet shoppers would most likely buy a tablet from Amazon, 17 points higher than the nearest competitor. Here are five reasons why this slate will make nearly every iPad alternative instantly irrelevant and gobble up a sizable chunk of Apple’s pie.
One Store and One Account for Everything—Including Apps
One of the best things about the Sony S Tablet is that it's bundled with apps for Sony's book, music, and video stores. There’s also a front-end for discovering apps, but it just takes you to the Android Market. That’s one extra account a user must set up and manage. Amazon has all of the above, plus its own app store. Sure, the selection isn’t as robust as Google’s, but I can’t overstate the advantage of having one bill for all of your content purchases. See iTunes. And while Samsung and HTC have built their own music and video stores, Amazon has a huge built-in advantage with the number of people who already have Amazon accounts, 137 million and counting.
It Will Be Cheap Without Being “Cheap”
Not counting the $99 HP TouchPad fire sale special, most tablets thus far priced under $300 have been total garbage. So when the New York Post reported earlier this week that the Amazon Kindle would be “hundreds less” than the iPad, a lot of people took notice. My guess for the starting price? $249, the same as the Barnes & Noble Nook Color. Except the Amazon Tablet won’t just be a reading tablet with access to apps. It will run full-blown Android. Amazon won’t chintz out on the design, either, like your ViewSonics and E Funs. It will be willing to take a loss on the hardware in exchange for customers buying more books, more movies, and more of everything else.
Amazon Knows How to Market a Product, Including Cheating
Let’s be honest. Amazon has enjoyed a very unfair advantage in the eReader market. That’s because the company has been able to promote the Kindle line front and center on the most visited shopping website. When I went to Amazon’s homepage this morning I saw a huge ad that said “Kindle: The Best Selling eReader in the World.” No duh!
The Amazon Tablet will enjoy the same favorable treatment, so it will likely rocket to the No. 1 or No. 2 spot on the site in short order (assuming it works as advertised). And that’s probably the scariest thing of all about the Amazon tablet to anyone else making slates. It will literally sell itself.
I also have to give Amazon credit for its clever Kindle TV spots, especially the ones that poked fun of the iPad’s lack of outdoor readability. Look for Amazon to stick it to Apple again—this time on price.
It Will Give You Free Stuff
The other night my wife and I sat down in front of the Roku box and watched a few Cheers episodes for free. We were accessing Amazon’s Instant Video collection, one of the perks of being an Amazon Prime member. For $79.99 per year, you get free two-day shipping on Amazon purchases plus unlimited streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows. I expect Amazon to extend this perk to its tablet. Granted, the content selection isn’t very timely, but neither is Netflix’s streaming catalog. It’s also conceivable that the Amazon Tablet itself will cost less for Prime members.
In addition, the Amazon Appstore for Android gives away a paid app for free every day. Amazon also offers a free song of the day in its MP3Store, but I think the company needs to offer a streaming option as well to compete with Slacker and Spotify. Or try one subscription price for unlimited music and video streaming. This whole asking consumers to upload their tracks to the cloud thing isn’t going to fly.
It Will Know What You Like…and Tell You What Your Friends Like
There’s no question that online shopping feels less cumbersome and more natural on a slate than being hunched over a laptop. And Amazon will seek to leverage that advantage by bundling its tablet with a shopping app that makes recommendations based on your purchase history. I fully expect Amazon to do the above with apps, making a typically confusing experience more refined and personal.
The experience will also be social. Amazon has a Tap Into Your Friends feature in Beta online that enables the site to recommend movies, music, and other content based on your Facebook profile, as well as see upcoming birthdays and find Amazon Wish Lists for your friends. Imagine seeing these alerts land right in your notification window on the tablet. Don’t be surprised to see multiple “I want an Amazon tablet” updates show up in your feed.
Aside from hardware, one of the main reasons the iPad has succeeded is because of its extensive ecosystem of music, movies, and apps, all of which can be purchased from one location with one account. That's something no other tablet maker can yet boast, but Amazon has all the pieces in place to do just that. If it can deliver a tablet that looks great and performs well, everyone else might as well go home.
Editor-in-chief Mark Spoonauer directs LAPTOP's online and print editorial content and has been covering mobile and wireless technology for over a decade. Each week Mark's SpoonFed column provides his insights and analysis of the biggest mobile trends and news. You can also follow him on Twitter.