Apple Tablet as Kindle Killer?


May 27, 2009 by D Stack

My KindleThere’s been something of a frenzy of speculation that Apple will be releasing or announcing some for of tablet computer in the near future. A quick google of “apple tablet” will show that. (Go ahead and try. I’ll wait. Though the results mayu be different if you are reading this in 2094. But odds are I’ll be dead by then.)

The basic idea is Apple will be releasing something like a super-sized iPod Touch or iPhone. And I could see where there’d be a market for that sort of thing. The idea is it’s be say the size of a DVD case – which is about the size of an Amazon Kindle eBook Reader. The whole surface would basically be one big touch screen. It would use some variation of Mac OS X.

And a lot of the speculation pegs this as a “Kindle Killer”. For those not too familiar with it, the Amazon Kindle is an eBook reader. It is about the size of a DVD case though its screen is quite  a bit smaller. Unlike a traditional computer, the Kindle, like most digital readers, uses e-Ink. It’s basically an etch-a-sketch raised to the nth degree. The advantage to using e-Ink is the device uses very little power, generates very little heat, and is much closer in experience to reading a “real” paper book, as there is no backlight, no flicker, no screen refresh, etc.

I’ve got a Kindle and am giving serious thought to the DX version. While the price is painful, its large screen and pdf support are very appealing, if for no other reason than it’d be a way cool of reading RPG pdfs without going broke buying ink cartridges to print them out.

I’m also a big Apple fan. I’m typing this on my iMac desktop computer. I’ve also got an aging MacBook Pro (still works wonderfully well). The Kindle picture here was taken with my iPhone. So it’s safe to say I like both.

That said, I have a tough time viewing an Apple Tablet as a “Kindle Killer”. I’m no analyst and work far, far away from sales. so I certainly could be wrong. But the two platforms are very different. While an Apple Tablet would certainly give me vibrant colors and a crisper display, it is difficult to imagine it would give the experience of reading a book. I like my iPhone, but when you start taxing it (a lot of video viewing or internat access will do it) it starts to get warm. Assuming an Apple Tablet were to be similar to an iPhone, I could see it getting warm over time. And I can’t picture looking at a computer display for hours at a time. The Kindle screen, on the other hand, is made for just that. I could certainly see a tablet as being useful or even superior to an eBook reader for media such as blogs and newspaper/magazine articles. But reading a novel on one seems a difficult undertaking.

Even if I’m wrong, I’m not convinced Amazon would even mind such an outcome. Amazon really isn’t a hardware company; their main products are media-based – books, videos, music, etc. You can buy a video from Amazon for download to your Tivo. Amazon isn’t really in the business of making a DVR. Similarly, you can purchase music mp3s frp, Amazon for download onto any digital music player. I’d bet they made the Kindle because there wasn’t really a dominant eBook reader and they felt the need to jump-start the entire market. Considering that there is already an Amazon Kindle iPhone Application, I am certain Amazon could co-exist with an Apple Tablet. After all, Apple isn’t in the media business – they make a ton of money selling a product that you can put media onto. What would be interesting to see is if they could easily add eBooks to their iTunes store. That’s a market where they’d be playing a lot of catch-up with Amazon, something they hadn’t really had to do when they entered the music and video businesses.

Gizmodo's iTablet Mockup


One thought on “Apple Tablet as Kindle Killer?

  1. Mike says:

    “Apple isn’t in the media business – they make a ton of money selling a product that you can put media onto.”

    Disagree, Apple is in the media business. Or rather more precisely, they’re in the media distribution business via iTunes. Moreover, in the distribution of music, they’ve implemented monopolizing practices designed to make it prohibitively irritating to use their distribution service with anything other than their hardware. And contrary to their “DRM free” peace and love message, they still use a proprietary format that’s takes time and some knowledge to be able to play it on a different media player. If they wanted to be truly open, they’d open up their format, or better still, switch to existing open source formats. But that would loosen the monopoly.

    I’ve little reason to assume they wouldn’t follow a similar practice with any new media space they enter, i.e. books.

    Not well enough educated on Amazon’s product to be able to criticize them (or not) for similar practices with respect to the Kindle, I think they made their own hardware platform in part because existing eBook readers suffered from bad support, bad distribution and bad quality.

    Getting back to my tangent rant about monopolizing practices, I do like how Apple, for years victim of market squeeze via monopolizing practice from their primary competitor, Microsoft, has shamelessly performed the same activities while making people believe their somehow the good guys.

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