BobbyeM71hxwKindle May Get Touchscreen To Battle Apple’s iPad

Reportedly, Amazon.com has purchased a leading touchscreen innovator in an apparent bid to add more functionality to its Kindle e-book reader. With Apple set to begin shipping its highly anticipated iPad tablet computer in less than two months with an iBooks application and multimedia capability, Amazon is under pressure to keep its share of the market.

An application store has also been announced by Amazon. And this week produced a software development kit for “active content” that includes sample code and a simulator. The company plans to add puzzles, games and travel guides to selections that readers can download.
However, Amazon reportedly will exclude applications that use the Voice over Internet Protocol.

Playing Catch-Up

Some analysts are skeptical that the Kindle can avoid being swamped by the iPad tsunami. According to Michael Gartenberg, a vice president at Interpret, it depends on what else they add, adding touch to the existing Kindle seems gratuitous and actually can work against E Ink legibility.

Currently, E Ink, the largest supplier of electronic-paper display technology, provides the Kindle’s monochrome display. Gartenberg questioned why the world’s leading online retailer would want to compete with hardware giants.

He asked, “if the question is, is Amazon thinking of a new generation of devices that can more effectively compete with the iPad, the better question is, should Amazon be in the device business at all [instead of focusing] on adding value to other devices?”

For the iPad’s basic model, the price is $499, which is almost double the Kindle’s $259; it was set lower than the anticipated $700 to compete with the e-reader.

According to the New York Times, Amazon has purchased Touchco, a company that manufactures a highly sensitive touchscreen that costs only $10 a square foot, far cheaper than the screen used in Apple’s devices. The screen has unlimited touch points and is able to distinguish between fingers and pens or styluses.

Currently, the Kindle relies on a hardware keyboard for data entry.

Multi-Touch Is In

About multi-touch capability, the report is the second in two days, which is designed to tackle the iPhone and iPodedge in that realm. On Wednesday, Google announced that its Nexus One smartphone now has a software patch to enable “pinch and zoom” for maps, photos and search results.

Neither Amazon nor Touchco’s representative would comment for its report, but citing “a person briefed on the deal,” the paper reported that Amazon’s hardware facility, Lab 126, will merge with Touchco, which began as a project at New York University’s research lab.

According to Touchco’s web site, the company is no longer doing business as of last month.

In June, Collins Stewart analyst Sandeep Aggarwal predicted that the Kindle would generate $310 million in revenue for Amazon in 2009 and $2 billion a year by 2012, with gross profit reaching $70 million, and $560 million in 2012.

In October, Citigroup analyst Mark Mahaney estimated that Amazon would sell 1.5 million Kindles in 2009.

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