In the world of online shopping, retailer Amazon is easily one of the largest and most trusted names out there.  I for one tend to go directly to Amazon for my shopping needs without doing (much) shopping around simply because I know that Amazon tends to have the best deals; especially with the Amazon Prime service that is offered free to students.  But Amazon is far from being just another online retailer.

Amazon Web Services is an extremely popular server and electronic content distribution provider, the company sells music downloads, and more recently we saw the debut of the Amazon App Store which allows Android users to purchase mobile applications from their handsets.  And last but not least, Amazon has stayed close to their original grass-roots as a mail-order book service by continuing to sell books; both physical hardcovers and paperbacks, and electronic books for their “Kindle” platform as well.

Available as both iOS and Android apps, Kindle e-books allow users to purchase and read best-selling and lesser-known titles from their mobile devices.  But Amazon also sells a device known as the “Kindle” that is designed specifically for reading electronic books.  The Kindle has been around for quite some time now – even before the iPad hit the market – but more recently Amazon has been pushing the electronic device more than ever.  Just look at the Amazon.com website and on most days you’ll see the Kindle being shamelessly advertised.  But despite the advertising effort being put into the Kindle and the fact that it is indeed a solid product, the device is simply shameful in the current market.

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The iPad and Android tablets that are on the market do so much more than the Kindle e-reader, and when you look at the price of the Kindle, even with the recent cuts, I for one would honestly buy a tablet computer before a Kindle simply because tablets give the consumer more for their money.  With this in mind, it makes prefect sense that Amazon is starting to get involved with projects that suggest the viable possibility of an Android-based Amazon tablet down the road.  But what can we as consumers expect to see from such a device?

Well, I think that in order to answer this pressing question we must take a long hard look at the Barnes and Noble “Nook Color”; a device manufactured by Amazon’s long-time retail competitor.  While the original Nook was somewhat bland, the Nook Color appeals to more users because of the fact that it’s not a simply e-reader, but is rather a product that functions more like a tablet computer than anything else.  The feature page for the product discusses the touch-screen display, mobile applications, email, and web browsing.  If that doesn’t sound like a tablet to you I don’t know what does.

And of course, one of the biggest features of the Nook Color is the fact that the display is in, well, color; all with a price-tag of $250.

So now that we know the Nook Color offers, what can we expect from Amazon’s rumored tablet.  First and foremost, I think the compatibility and consumer familiarity of the Android operating system will be one of the biggest selling points because it will make the device appeal as an actual tablet instead of a souped-up e-reader.  Needless to say, one of the biggest things that we talk about with Android is the number of applications that are developed for it.  WIth this in mind, we’ll surely see Amazon implement their own application and music marketplace using products that they have already developed.

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I also think that the Amazon tablet will have to rival the seemingly simple email client that the Nook Color offers, and will have to develop a personal information management system (email, calendar, contacts, notes, etc) of epic proportions; something that puts the applications we see on Android smartphones to shame.  But the company shouldn’t, in my opinion, worry about going all-out with graphics or powerful processing power for games.  Rather, I think that by combining the simplicity of the current Kindle offerings with the functionality of the Android operating system Amazon will have a device that appeals to a consumer group that the iPad hasn’t really gotten to.

Let’s face it.  Amazon is not likely to bring new features to the table.  Just looking at the Nook Color I personally see Barnes and Noble trying to compete in the tablet market with a device that doesn’t have the offerings to sustain.  If Amazon is smart, they’ll realize that the Kindle – or whatever they dub their tablet – isn’t going to attain the level of success that the iPad has thus far.  The only chance I think they have is with simplicity and price; two aspects that I have come to trust Amazon with over the years.

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