February 04, 2010, 4:28 PM — An explosion of competing e-reader devices, and the emerging challenge from tablet PC's is driving Amazon to aggressively retool the Kindle. However, the updates and modifications will fall short of delivering a tablet PC experience to compete with the iPad, and will alienate core Kindle users in the process.
Amazon brought the concept of the e-reader to the masses, and took it from a niche novelty to a mainstream gadget with the Kindle. The e-reader is slowly now slowly making the transition from consumer gadget to business tool. But, a growing stable of competitors has emerged, including the Barnes and Noble Nook, and the Plastic Logic Que proReader, to challenge the Kindle's e-reader dominance.
The Nook, in particular, has caught the attention of many users. The dual-screen approach of using the black and white e-Ink display on top, but including a color touchscreen--reminiscent of the iPhone display--on the bottom for navigation seems to offer a more intuitive and user-friendly design that have made the device popular. Unfortunately for Barnes and Noble, and fortunately for Amazon, the Nook was so popular that it outsold demand over the holidays and helped drive record Kindle sales.
Amazon was already faced with the challenge from competing e-readers, and then along came the Apple iPad. The iPad is not an e-reader. However, it's also not really a computer. It is, more or less, a giant iPod Touch and its primary purpose is to enable users to display and consume content--including books.
Along with the iPad, Apple also announced partnerships with top-tier publishers and unveiled its iBooks store. Combined with the fact that the iPad (and iPhone) also have a Kindle app for reading Kindle-format books, and the similarities between the Kindle and iPad form factors, the iPad certainly appears to be stepping on Kindle territory.