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The Amazon Kindle tablet: An 'e-reader on steroids'?

The e-retail behemoth is expected to unveil a new device Wednesday that may be the most serious threat yet to the iPad's market domination

Has Amazon created the elusive "iPad killer?" Maybe, at least judging from the buzz surrounding the company's new tablet which is expected to be officially unveiled Wednesday. What do we know about Amazon's new device? Four key questions:

What is it?Perhaps confusingly, given the company's line of e-readers, the new Amazon tablet will be called "Amazon Kindle," says MG Siegler at TechCrunch. "But it's not like any Kindle you've seen before." Siegler, who has already used the new tablet, says it will have a 7-inch, full-color touchscreen — back-lit unlike current Kindles. It will run on Google's Android software, says Tony Bradley at PC World, making it an "e-reader on steroids." Beyond enjoying the Kindle's usual e-reader capabilities, users will be able to browse the internet, stream music and videos, and download and operate apps.

What sets it apart?The Amazon Kindle will "provide a complete tablet experience" that's more in line with the iPad than Barnes and Noble's Nook Color, says Bradley. It will also be integrated with Amazon's many content services, including Kindle for books, its MP3 and Cloud Player for music, and its Amazon Appstore for Android apps, says Nathan Olivarez-Giles at the Los Angeles Times. It's also expected that the tablet's price will include Amazon Prime, the company's $79-per-year premium service. Prime customers receive unlimited two-day shipping on Amazon purchases and access to a massive catalog of movies and TV shows.

Will people buy the Kindle tablet?You betcha, says Fox News, especially given its expected "aggressive" initial price of just $250, on par with the Nook Color. Remember, when HP slashed the price of its TouchPad tablet from $399 to just $99, "consumers went wild." Early industry estimates suggest that Amazon could sell 3 million units within a year.

Should Apple be worried?Considering that the Kindle tablet will cost half as much as the low-end iPad, yes. But beyond the price, Amazon is "one of the few companies that can provide [the sort of] integration" that has helped Apple retain its dominance, says Larry Dignan at ZD Net. That means, says Fox News, that the Kindle tablet could be "the first real threat to the iPad's market domination."

Sources: Fox News, LA Times, PC World, Tech Crunch, USA Today, ZD Net

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