Amazon could be readying a new set of Kindle tablets for unveiling in early September. That’s the widespread speculation following the online retailer’s invitations to media for a Sept. 6 event in Santa Monica, Calif.
Even by the coy standards of most tech companies’ event invitations, Amazon’s is notably bereft of detail. It will take place at 10:30 AM PST at Barker Hangar, a noted (and quite large) event space. But the timing of the event is auspicious: with Apple rumored to be unveiling a smaller iPad in the near future, and the holiday shopping season a few months away, early September could prove the ideal time for Amazon to whip back the curtain from a new tablet and dominate the media conversation, at least for a few days.
“My assumption is that it’s an update of the Kindle Fire tablet,” Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps told MarketWatch Aug. 23. However, rumors have persisted for months that Amazon is developing its own smartphone; if that turns out to be the device revealed at the upcoming event, it might buy Amazon a few days’ worth of media oxygen before Apple’s next-generation iPhone makes its expected (but officially unconfirmed) debut later in September.
Back to the idea of a new Kindle Fire. For much of the year, tech publications have speculated openly about the features Amazon might integrate into the tablet’s next iteration. In June, BGR “confirmed” via an unnamed source that the retailer was prepping a revamped version of its 7-inch tablet alongside a 10-inch edition.
“Our source says that the new models feature a metal casing in place of the current-generation model’s soft-touch plastic body,” BGR reported. “The overall shape of Amazon’s new slates is described as a thinner version of the first-generation iPad but there are no buttons on the front of either device.”
Other, earlier reports suggested the next-generation Kindle Fire would feature an 8.9-inch screen. Whatever Amazon ends up revealing, though, it will face some formidable competition in the tablet space: not only Apple’s bestselling iPad (possibly complemented by a smaller, cheaper version) but also Google’s Nexus 7, a 7-inch tablet unveiled in late June.
The Nexus 7 comes preloaded with a range of content, including movies and music, and runs Android 4.1 (“Jelly Bean”). That makes it a powerful rival to the Kindle Fire, which runs a heavily modified version of Android and positions itself as the ideal slate for streaming content from the Web (in addition to displaying e-books).
In other words, if Amazon is indeed planning to show off a new Kindle Fire, it will need to pack some powerful hardware and software—and probably some new cloud services—if it wants to make an impression within a crowded and evolving market.