By Devin Coldewey
Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) has always been frustratingly close-lipped about its hardware business, opting not to divulge sales numbers or upcoming hardware changes for more or less the entire life of the Kindle. And incredibly, such information rarely leaks out (though we managed to catch the graphite Kindle 3 ahead of its debut). But today just two words are sending the tech blogs into confusion, as Jeff Bezos coyly tells an interviewer to “stay tuned” in relation to a new Amazon tablet.
I myself asked the same question of the head of Kindle not a month ago and got a “no comment,” so I’m thinking that this is all Bezos’ game. And he knows how to stoke the fire (notice how I resist using the obvious pun). This minor non-comment is more than we’ve gotten in the last few years, so let the speculation begin.
The full context of the quote (in an interview with Consumer Reports) also has Bezos downplaying the role of such a tablet, though: “We will always be very mindful that we will want a dedicated reading device. In terms of any other product introductions, I shouldn’t answer.”
He also pointed out the limitations of current color e-ink screens, noting their desaturated colors but acknowledging the draw of such a technology. E Ink has said they are not planning on rolling out improved screens this year, and the Triton color screens aren’t ready for a million-unit roll-out. Bridgestone’s Aerobee technology looks promising, but it’s aiming at enterprise first, and Amazon may not want to endanger their friendly partnership with E Ink by switching horses.
My interpretation of Bezos’ remarks would be (as we’ve suggested before) that he’s waiting on the technology, and unwilling to put out an LCD version with the weaknesses they have so frequently mocked. Besides, with the Kindle app available on so many platforms, it doesn’t make much sense to put out an also-ran. Whatever Amazon puts out, Bezos wants it to be the first and best of its kind.
But then, how to explain the hundreds of thousands of LCD screens supposedly ordered by Amazon? All a mystery, friends. My guess would be that E Ink and Amazon are holding out on us, and we’re going to get a pleasant surprise towards the end of the year.