Demos Parneros, president of U.S. Retail for Staples Inc., recently told Reuters that Amazon plans to introduce up to six tablet SKUs (stock-keeping unit). They will come in various sizes, one of which will be a 10-inch model. They're also expected to be more finely tuned to Amazon's customers thanks to almost a year's worth of Kindle Fire data.
Prior reports have indicated that Amazon plans to upgrade its current Kindle Fire with a few revisions and a reduced price. At the same time, Amazon will reportedly launch a 2nd-generation Kindle Fire HD sporting a thinner design and a higher resolution screen. Then towards the end of the year, the company is expected to release a 10.1-inch model -- likely an overhauled Kindle DX with Fire-like features -- to directly compete with Apple's iPad.
Prior reports also indicated that the Kindle Touch will be refitted with a color screen and front-lit support, while the base Kindle will retain the monochrome screen but also see the addition of front-lit lighting. The 6th SKU? That could be the ad-supported Kindle Fire which will be offered at a highly reduced price. Naturally all of this is rumor and speculation until Amazon makes a formal announcement.
"The Kindle Fire is off to a great start," said Niccolo de Masi, chief executive of Glu Mobile Inc. "We will be supporting all new devices that have promise. They are trying to build on the foundations they have."
Staples' admittance to the SKUs is seemingly the first real confirmation that Amazon is producing more tablets. The news follows the release of Google's answer to the Kindle Fire: the Nexus 7. Like Amazon's Android tablet, the launch has seen its fair share of problems ranging from the inability to meet consumer demand, to defects in the actual hardware and design.
Many consumers, including myself unfortunately, are experiencing a raised screen along the middle-left side when holding the Nexus 7 in portrait mode. There are also reports of dead pixels, an unresponsive area along the right side of the screen when in portrait mode, and bleeding light. Google is offering a 15-day return window while other retailers reportedly offer a 30-day window.
Consumers who purchase the Kindle Fire will have exclusive access to the company's Instant Video service, allowing users to stream rented and purchased video stored in Amazon's cloud. What they can't access is Google services directly -- users are forced to side-load Google Play apps if possible. Meanwhile, Nexus 7 owners have access to Google Play, Amazon's Appstore and other Amazon products although Instant Video isn't accessible.
Amazon is also reportedly working with Foxconn on a smartphone while scooping up patents in the process -- these supposedly cover wireless technology and will better defend Amazon against possible allegations of infringement. The company also acquired 3D mapping startup company UpNext, fueling speculation that Amazon plans to integrate its own mapping service into the smartphone. Like the Kindle line, a smartphone is expected to cause ebook and other digital purchases to skyrocket.
Reuters reports that Amazon Chief Financial Officer Tom Szkutak dodged questions about a smartphone, but admitted that the Kindle Fire, which officially went retail in November 2011, was spurring purchases of "a lot" of digital content. "We are very pleased with what's happening," the CFO added.
Sounds like a good reason to broaden the Kindle line.