Taiwan-based notebook maker Quanta Computer has recently received OEM orders from Amazon for its reported tablet PC and the device will also receive full support from Taiwan-based electrophoretic display (EPD) maker E Ink Holdings (EIH) for supplying touch panel as well as providing its Fringe Field Switching (FFS) technology, according to sources from upstream component makers.
FFS was originally developed by Hydis and is an IPS-like TFT LCD technology with all the features that make IPS great: wide viewing angles with minimal shifts in color, contrast, and brightness. If this report is accurate we can expect Amazon to announce a color LCD tablet to go head-to-head against the iPad.
I think Amazon has the best chance of competing with Apple. Most companies are focused on the hardware (LG, Samsung, HTC, etc.). Hardware is but one piece, and the simplest piece, that makes the iPad successful. Hardware is simplest because all you have to do is match the specifications with a bill of materials that is equivalent to the iPad. The competition has had a helluva time trying.
Next is software. Then is tight integration between software and hardware. After that is a healthy app ecosystem filled with superb developers creating brilliant apps. Then there’s the iTunes Music Store offering up music, video, e-books, etc. All of these things are what make the iPad stand out.
Amazon has music, video, and lots of e-books. Amazon also has a cloud locker for your multimedia files, something Apple doesn’t have at the moment. Many have guessed that Apple is working on iCloud, a rebadging of MobileMe offering cloud-based syncing services for your iPhone and iPad.
For apps, Amazon has opened up its own Android app store. As far as I can see there will be only two things Amazon will struggle with as it competes against Apple in the tablet space.
First is software and hardware integration. All Android tablet brands will have a difficult time including Amazon. Google might or might not be helping by making it more difficult for brands to offer customizations. Granted most customizations rarely offer UI improvements over the stock Android UI. And maybe Google has gotten tired of the more fragmented user experience compared to iOS, but limiting customizations also limits the strength of a more open Android OS: allowing for advancements from a large pool of players. Thanks to Google’s latest stance, tight integration between software and hardware is going to be tough for Amazon.
Second is related to the first but more focused on design: the industrial design of the hardware as well as the little things that make iOS pleasant to work and play on. No other company does it better than Apple. From what I’ve seen on the Kindle Amazon has some catching up to do.
Apple has brought together a hardware, software, and media infrastructure that seems unbeatable. Amazon probably has the best chance with a color Kindle, but the target is moving fast and growing and a rapid pace.
PS: Amazon’s Whispernet, a free 3G connection could be the differentiating feature. An experimental feature on the Kindle 3G allows you to hop on Whispernet and browse the Internet for free. Could Amazon offer free 3G on its color Kindle tablet?