While many have fixated on the iPad 2, I’ve begun wondering what a Kindle 4 might look like. First off, I believe Amazon will continue to drive the price down on an entry level e-reader to increase uptake. Whether that’s existing $139 WiFi Kindle hardware, or a refreshed product remains to be seen. But I anticipate Amazon will hit the magical $99 price point in time for Christmas 2011. But what might a higher end Kindle look like?
Amazon could go the Barnes & Noble route by introducing a color LCD media-centric tablet. And that would actually make a whole lot of sense given the other digital media properties Amazon could leverage – MP3s, video on demand, and now free, instant streaming for Prime subscribers (!). Yet given the continued bashing of reflective screens in sunlight (screengrab from their latest television commercial below) and what looks to be a successful business relationship with e-Ink, 2011 may not be the year.
However, that’s not to say the Kindle platform will remain stagnant if Amazon sticks with e-Ink. As they introduced a color display (“Triton”) last fall and Amazon actually acquired a touchscreen company (Touchco). An Amazon Color would be capable of displaying “thousands” of colors, but I’m not sure it’s enough as the released imagery looks… off. (see above) Additionally, Amazon’s presentation of periodicals would need to be vastly overhauled. Perhaps that’s their intent. I’m more enthused about the possibility of a touchscreen interface. It’s much more natural to interact directly with the elements we intend to control rather than fiddling with abstract representations on the perimeter. And Sony’s proven that it’s possible to successfully meld touchscreen technology with e-Ink. While I doubt we’d ever see this from a shipping product, it’s worth pointing out Bookeen’s demo of grayscale e-Ink video – it’s a pretty wild hack.
On the software side, I’d like to see a Kindle 4 ship with a Flipboard-esque app. While some proclaim RSS is dead, I’d say it was never alive in a mainstream sense. So instead of a Kindle RSS reader, how about a curated bucket of periodically downloadable web content covering various topics (news, tech, fashion, etc). And let’s spice it up with a few Twitter and Facebook friends. An email client would be nice too, assuming Amazon sticks with the physical keyboard, but that may be too far outside their current wheelhouse. As mentioned above, their presentation of periodicals and newspapers could also use a massive overhaul.
In our household, I’m on the hook for at least one iPad 2 (as an anniversary gift). But there’s probably also room for an updated touchscreen, color Kindle.