As an Amazon tablet looms, should Apple be worried?

An Amazon tablet is expected to be introduced Wednesday, at a press event in New York. But the big question remains: Will this thing have what it takes to compete with the iPad?

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    An Amazon tablet is expected to be unveiled this week. But what shape will the Amazon tablet take?
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Amazon has called a press conference for Wednesday, and if the countless analysts weighing in on the matter are to be believed, the company will likely use the event to unveil a tablet computer. So what will this Amazon tablet look like, and what will it do? Well, unlike Apple, which seems to lose a top-secret prototype every year, Amazon has managed to keep the exact look of its forthcoming device under wraps.

But over at SlashGear, Chris Davies is pretty sure he knows a little bit about the functionality of the (almost certainly real) Amazon tablet. "In addition to delivering streamed music and video from Amazon’s Cloud Player and Prime Video services, the Kindle tablet could also put all documents – both ebooks purchased from the retailer’s virtual store, as with the existing Kindle ereaders, and user’s own personal files – into the cloud," Davies writes.

A cloud-centric tablet from Amazon: sounds about right. But what kind of shot will an Amazon tablet have in a market already heavily dominated by Apple? A long one, probably, at least for the time being. As we noted last week, research firm Gartner has published a report indicating that Apple will have a "free run" over its competitors for the next three years.

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"We expect Apple to maintain a market share lead throughout our forecast period by commanding more than 50 percent of the market until 2014," Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner said in a statement. "This is because Apple delivers a superior and unified user experience across its hardware, software and services. Unless competitors can respond with a similar approach, challenges to Apple’s position will be minimal."

Of course, if there's any company that can "respond with a similar approach," it's Amazon. And even if Amazon doesn't unseat Apple, Barclays analyst Anthony DiClemente tells the New York Times today, "the consumer is going to be the winner. The fact that Amazon is making such a huge investment might make Apple come back into the market at a lower price point. What’s to prevent them from slimming down the iPad?"

In related news, a small tech blog called the Digital Reader is reporting that Barnes & Noble is close to releasing a full-featured tablet of its own. According to Nate Hoffeider at the Digital Reader, the tablet will be called the Acclaim, although most other pertinent specs remained vague. "B&N will keep the NookTouch at $139, and they will have the 2 NookColors at higher price points." The Acclaim, Hoffeider writes, will be priced at $349.

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