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Speculation on an Amazon iPad competitor

I’d bet on Amazon releasing a true tablet, competing more directly with the iPad than the Kindle currently does, in the possibly-near future. Andy Ihnatko nailed it last month:

I don’t know that they’re doing this. But I do know that Amazon has all of the required pieces in place and that they — not Google, not Motorola, not HP, RIM, Samsung, or any other tech company who’s shoved their CEO in front of a press audience in the past year with a shaky tablet prototype and an even shakier list of things he’s allowed to say about it — are clearly in the best position to challenge Apple and the iPad.

I don’t know why it has taken most of us this long to figure this out, but it makes a lot of sense.

Add this week’s ad-subsidized Kindle, and there’s another dot to connect. Think of it not as a strange way to achieve a $25 price cut, but as a prototype to test and develop what’s intended to be a much larger ad-subsidy system.

Picture this:

It would certainly make things interesting.

And it would explain why Amazon’s seemingly ignoring the in-app-purchase requirement for the iOS Kindle app. I bet they’re in a real or implied game of chicken with Apple:

Apple: “Bend over for our IAP rules in the Kindle app.”
Amazon: “No. Pull it from the Store, we dare you.”

A lot of people use the Kindle iOS app. Imagine if Apple pulls it from the App Store, and Amazon inconveniently launches a $199 iPad alternative that includes it and more.

In the long run, it would probably be great for Apple: iBooks would become the only widely used commercial-ebook reader on the platform, and iOS devices have such a massive installed base that being the exclusive vendor would give Apple a huge advantage when negotiating with publishers to be in the iBookstore. Amazon knows this.

But it would cause a pretty big short-term headache for Apple that, if there’s a new and very inexpensive tablet alternative from Amazon, could pose a credible (although almost certainly not fatal) threat to the iPad’s marketshare. And Apple knows this.

I suspect the Kindle app will continue being mysteriously and indefinitely exempted from the in-app-purchase rules.

Update: I don’t mean to say that Amazon is artificially delaying or holding back a tablet release to keep Apple from booting — rather, I think the Amazon tablet, if it exists, is coming out on its own schedule regardless. But its presumed near-future existence makes the near term a bad time for Apple to give owners of a lot of Kindle e-books a reason to look around for iPad alternatives. The most likely outcome, therefore, is that the Kindle app will continue to be permitted on iOS, regardless of its compliance with IAP rules, even if an Amazon tablet launches in the future.