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Amazon's Color Slate: Tablet or eReader?

The eagerly anticipated device defies existing categories.

It reportedly runs Android, has a 7-inch color touchscreen, and carries a boatload of hooks into Amazon's online content. Some pundits are calling it a potential iPad killer--heady praise for a product that hasn't been announced. But given its expected feature set, is Amazon's new slate a tablet or an e-reader?

I know, I know. This isn't exactly an insomnia-inducing, life-or-death issue. But Amazon's genre-bending product, like Barnes & Noble's Nook Color, blurs the boundary between an iPad-style tablet and a Kindle-style e-reader.

Research firm IDC, in a new tablet/e-reader market forecast released on Wednesday, says that it plans to count the Amazon color device as a tablet: "Because we expect it to run a customized version of Android that ties its use to Amazon's content services, we expect the device to more closely resemble Barnes & Noble's Color Nook than Apple's iPad 2. As a result, our current plan is to count it as an e-reader, and that will also help drive shipment numbers."

Reportedly priced at $250, the Amazon device will also compete with similarly equipped bargain slates, such as the $199 Lenovo IdeaPad, a new Android tablet with a 7-inch color display.

Which raises the question: Is the IdeaPad an e-reader too? I suspect few industry watchers would categorize it as such, despite its small size and aggressively low price. In fact, it costs only $10 more than Amazon's $189 Kindle 3G, which no one would call a tablet.

Perhaps price will be the new Mason-Dixon Line separating tablets from e-readers. IDC expects "major vendors" (such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble) to sell their current-generation black-and-white e-readers for less than $100 by the holiday season."

¡Ay, caramba! Okay, it really doesn't matter whether a device is categorized as a tablet or an e-reader. To update Shakespeare: A slate by any other name is just as flat.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci) or at jbertolucci.blogspot.com.

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