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Amazon's cloudy vid-tablet breaks cover: Not an iClone

Early fondlings suggest serious Apple slab rival

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Early reports are emerging on the new Android-based Amazon Kindle, and the indications are that the bookstore has done well in forking Google's baby into its own likeness.

A colour Kindle has been widely anticipated, and close integration into Amazon's cloudy offerings comes as no surprise, but with a $250 price tag and completely customised user interface, Amazon is pitching its colour Kindle as the ultimate media-consumption device.

TechCrunch claims to have played with a prototype and to be pretty impressed with it too, though the blog has no pictures.

Buyers of the new Kindle, which is apparently remarkably similar in form to the 7-inch-screened BlackBerry Playbook, will get an interface which puts books, films and albums on the same parity as apps. Those apps will have to come from Amazon's online store. Importing other content should be possible but (just as on the Kindle), the path of least resistance is to buy from Amazon.

Google's Marketplace is entirely absent, as is the normal suite of Google apps (Google Maps, GMail, etc) that accompany the usual Android distributions. That's not surprising, as those apps aren't open source in the way that Android is and it seems Amazon wants complete control over its own platform.

Few Kindle users today realise how locked down their devices are: they can get at the books they want and so don't seem to care if the device itself is locked down. It might annoy purists, but Apple has demonstrated how ease of use trumps openness in the minds of the majority.

The device will be launched in November, to be followed by a 10-inch version if all goes well. Older Kindles will survive as cheap alternatives that will still work better on the beach (e-ink is just better in bright light).

Amazon's much-anticipated slab is being touted as a proper competitor to Apple's iPad: not because of the hardware but because only Amazon has the back-end services to support it. It also helps that it sports an interface that won't instantly trigger letters from Cupertino's lawyers. ®

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