Sep. 2, 2011 at 5:36 PM ET
TechCrunch's MG Siegler just released a report that he had not only seen but in fact played with the impending — but not confirmed — Kindle tablet from Amazon. The key data points, according to the tech biz site: It's a 7-incher, it runs Amazon's version of the Android OS, it's got no camera and it will cost $250.
In other words, Amazon is taking more or less the same approach as Barnes & Noble — its Nook Color is also a 7-inch camera-less tablet running a modified Android OS — but from the tone of Siegler's description, it could be way more powerful for two reasons: It will have Amazon's whole cloud-based media support, from e-books to streamed video to music, and it will have on-board access to Amazon's growing Android Appstore.
The interface resembles other Android devices and has the same WebKit browser, but Amazon's own flavor comes through in the visuals of the user interface. (This means lots of orange, apparently.) Siegler says there's a main screen showing a carousel of content, a software-based navigation bar that pops up when you tap the screen, and a separate Kindle search tool for finding content.
Though his source would not permit him to take photos, Siegler's scoop is credible. Besides the simple fact that people don't lie about firsthand experiences that can be so easily disproved, the fact is, it makes so much sense. Amazon needs the Android OS, but it doesn't need Google, so it makes sense that they wouldn't use the Google App Market, or rely on Google's Honeycomb tablet look and feel.
There remain some confounding mysteries. For instance, Siegler says he believes there are just 6 GB of storage, and he couldn't find an expansion slot. There probably is one — the original Kindle had one at launch — but storage is key if Amazon continues its Appstore push for great games and rich interactive content.
And what's really under the hood? The Nook Color is nice, but it's no powerhouse. Siegler said the Kindle tablet was "very responsive," which could suggest a faster processor and undoubtedly more RAM.
As for how it competes with the iPad, well, it's a smart play by Amazon because it does and it doesn't at the same time. Just like it's okay to have an e-ink Kindle and an iPad, it may make sense in some homes to have both kinds of tablets. But more importantly, the alleged $250 price tag means that people who have saved up halfway for an iPad can now quit, and — by the sound of it — be happy. Meanwhile, Siegler says plans for a 10-inch direct competitor to the iPad are a ways off, if even on the table at all.
I can't wait to see this thing for myself, assuming TechCrunch is even half correct. Read more of the details over there. We have reached out to Amazon and will report back if we hear any confirmation — though it's not likely at this time.
More on Amazon's as-yet-unseen tablet from msnbc.com: