Kindle Colour on the way

Sometimes the rumours about a product that hasn't been officially announced yet become so loud you just can't ignore them any more. We think the talk of an Amazon-branded Android tablet just reached that point.

The idea, which has been rumbling around for a while now, is that the giant e-tailer will release an Android-powered tablet, marketed as a colour e-reader under its Kindle brand. It's the same basic approach taken by US bookseller Barnes & Noble with its Nook Colour last year.

Why does this seem so inevitable? Well, we're not going to lie: we get the distinct sense that a lot of tech types, obsessed with specs and flexibility and consuming websites and media, find the book-focused Kindle a bit of a mystery. Geeks just can't get their heads around the idea that Amazon users might want the best possible device for reading books and not care if you can watch Up on it. Plus, Android fans desperately want a good, cheap, well-marketed rival to the iPad, and Amazon is the latest white knight believed to be capable of doing it. So when we first heard this rumour, we thought it might just be wishful thinking.

But then Amazon launched an Android app store, offering a more carefully curated alternative to Google's Android Market - a more Apple-like experience, in fact. If Amazon is now selling Android apps, wouldn't it make sense for there to be an Amazon tablet to sell them on? And as the latest crop of Android tablets met a fairly unenthusiastic response from the public, it became clearer that there really is a huge opportunity for Amazon here.

Now China's DigiTimes - which often predicts tech news from its contacts with parts manufacturers - is reporting that the Amazon tablet is real, and will be out before the end of 2011. Excitingly, it looks like it's going to have a special kind of touch-screen made by the folks at E-Ink, who do the Kindle screen. That means Amazon is serious about making this thing a good reading experience as well as an all-singing Android device.

Of course, there's lots to be still figured out - price, spec, even size, though we think a 7-in device makes much more sense for reading and for marketing within the existing Kindle brand. My guess is they'll want to keep the price pretty low, but Amazon is likely to subsidise it a bit in the hope of selling lots of Kindle books to buyers.

All in all, we think this could be the iPad rival of the year. Unless it doesn't exist at all, of course. That's the trouble with rumours...

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