March 09, 2010, 9:33 PM — It will take more than an "innovative Web browser" to save Amazon's Kindle e-reader from the onslaught of competitors, including tablets from Apple, HP, and seemingly every company in China that owns a soldering iron.
We're talking about this today because of the appearance of a job posting on Amazon's Web site. It says Amazon's Lab126 is looking for help building an "innovative Web browser," widely presumed to be for its Kindle e-reader since the browser is described as "embedded."
Repeating: An innovative Web browser will not stop what is going to happen to Kindle. The device will not be able to compete with next-generation, color-screen tablets that feature e-reader functionality and do more.
Amazon has two choices in responding to the coming e-reader wave: It can either dump prices on the Kindle or develop a competitive tablet-computer-Kindle hybrid device of its own. It could, of course, also do both.
My bet: Two years from now, Kindles will cost between $100 and $200. Obviously, I am expecting Amazon to choose the first option and then exit the e-reader hardware market over some period of time. Or it might stay in the game by private labeling someone else's tablet device and brand it a Kindle.
That bet, however, disregards the job posting, which can be read to vaguely suggest that Amazon wants to go high-end with a device that includes the, ahem, innovative Web browser.
Of course, the world does not need a high-end Amazon tablet and neither does Amazon. The Kindle was created to kick-start an e-book industry that never seemed to quite get going on its own. In that regard, Amazon has succeeded marvelously.
In the future, Amazon can expect its customers' move to e-books to accelerate, but won't need its own branded e-reader to compete. Sure, Amazon's total share of the e-book hardware marketplace may decline, but it would still sell more e-books than it does today due to overall market growth.
Amazon can certainly hold on to some top-tier spot in dedicated e-readers, which is where the Kindle is positioned today. The self-destruction of the Barnes and Noble Nook has helped burnish Kindle's reputation as the device to own, but that comes with a horizon.