Kindle Reader Hits Tablets, Makes Apple Look Like iPad Bully

Last Updated Mar 23, 2010 7:51 AM EDT

Amazon announced a full-color Kindle reader program compatible with all major tablets, the latest power move in the Amazon vs. Apple battle for digital books. The two powerhouses have been going at it since the announcement of the iPad iBookstore in January, but Amazon is now hitting Apple in its Achilles' Heel: Steve Jobs needs to sell hardware.

Amazon is doing two of the moves I suggested in a previous post, Apple iPad - 5 Ways Amazon Kindle Can Still Win:

  • Keep Kindle Apps Simple
  • Help Apple Sell Kindle Books
  • Upgrade The Kindle Interface
  • Capture The Publishers Apple Won't Or Can't Reach
  • Talk To Google. Now.
Notice that none of the recommendations say anything about the Kindle device itself because, at this point, it is truly secondary. Amazon is focusing on the delivery and not the medium.

Let's compare the two companies. Apple's main priority right now is the iPad: Getting iPad developers, hyping up pre-sales, scrubbing the app store for next month's iPad launches, and so on.

Amazon's main priority? Selling books. Amazon realizes that it already lost this round of the high-tech e-reader battle, as there was no way it could get a decent iPad competitor out in time for the April launches. By decent, we're talking a Kindle with full-color visuals, a slick interface and so on. A Kindle upgrade is coming, but not anytime soon. Amazon is doing the next best thing, letting go of the hardware battle and saying that it will come to the customer wherever he or she likes.

From Amazon:

  • Amazon's Whispersync technology automatically synchronizes your last page read, bookmarks, notes and highlights with Kindle and Kindle-compatible devices PC, Mac, iPhone, and BlackBerry
  • Customers can start reading on one device and, on another, pick up where they left off
  • Already have a Kindle? Access your Kindle books even if you don't have your Kindle with you
  • Create bookmarks, notes, and highlights, and view the annotations you created on your Kindle
"Already have a Kindle?" is the third point on a four-point marketing page. Amazon realizes that the war won't be won by hardware, but by customer loyalty. To Amazon, it doesn't matter where you buy it and read it -- just buy it and read it.

Meanwhile, Apple is being ambiguous on who it will let play on its precious App Store. As the New York Times notes, neither Amazon nor Barnes & Noble (with its lagging e-reader nook) will have an iPad app at launch.

Apple said last week that it was starting to accept submissions from iPad developers who want the chance to get their apps into the App Store before the iPad's release. But both Amazon and Barnes & Noble say they plan to wait and test their software on an actual iPad before submitting it for Apple's review.

Picture these multimillion dollar corporations creating apps on iPad simulators! They couldn't be there on launch day even if they wanted to, especially with Apple's painfully slow approval process. I know several smaller companies that have had a working iPad for weeks. It doesn't look like Amazon or Barnes & Noble have Apple's support.

Two things are clear. First, Apple isn't going to have an iBookstore app on any other device, which gives Amazon as well as Barnes & Noble an advantage. Second, Apple can either block iBookstore competitors from the iPad and anger Kindle and nook users or, conversely, accept iBookstore competitors and take money out of iBookstore's potential profits.

Your move, Apple.