Tablet Wars Heat Up: Apple/EA Reports, Kindle Games

The heat between large-screened portables is increasing, as Amazon prepares an SDK for its Kindle e-reader and EA is said to be making games for Apple's upcoming tablet device.
The competition between large-screened portable devices is intensifying even before all the competition has been announced, as Amazon prepares to launch an SDK for its successful Kindle e-reader, and reporting on Apple's impending tablet device coalesces. Apple is expected to unveil its long-awaited, heavily-rumored tablet during a press event on January 27. Today, Amazon said it will open up the Kindle to certain software developers next month, with full availability "later this year." Electronic Arts' EA Mobile label and social game developer Sonic Boom (Cro-Mag Rally, Big Top 10) are confirmed to be developing games for Kindle. The Kindle SDK will include an PC-, Linux-, and Mac-based emulator allowing developers to simulate their code running on a Kindle device. At first glance, the grayscale reading device, which does not include a touch screen or traditional four-way directional controls, seems like a poor fit to non-word-based games. Only one of the two currently available Kindle models includes an accelerometer. The commercial success of the iPhone drove developers to overcome its own input limitations -- such as the complete lack of discrete usable buttons -- to host a thriving ecosystem of applications. Amazon may be banking on a similar phenomenon with its device, which it says has consistently maintained the top sales slot across its entire online storefront. Apple itself will soon enter a similar, likely much higher-end, market segment, with its still-unannounced tablet device. While expected to be a more fully-fledged computing device, and thus not a direct competitor to the $259 Kindle, Apple's product may still compete for the same batch of consumer's dollars in the way its Mac laptops compete with smaller, more affordable netbooks. And according to an extensive Wall St. Journal report on the device, Apple has been in talks with book and periodical publishers like The New York Times Company, Conde Nast Publications, and Wall St. Journal owner News Corp. about licensing newspaper and magazine content -- a key area for Kindle. Apple has allegedly also had discussions with The New York Times about the possibility of selling Times content through iTunes. The New York Times recently announced it will be moving to a partially-paid content model online next year, and Apple's iTunes has long been the premiere venue for monetizing traditional media on the internet on a per-item basis. But Apple's tablet is reportedly targeting video and game content as well, which could be one reason Amazon just announced its SDK. The Wall St. Journal claims Apple is working with Electronic Arts to "show off the tablet's game capabilities," and has spoken with CBS and Disney about licensing television content for subscriptions. In the run-up to next week's Apple tablet announcement, speculation has arguably eclipsed that of the iPhone prior to its unveiling. And while none of the device's specifications have been confirmed, web reports suggest the tablet will be equipped with a 10- to 11-inch touch screen. That's roughly an inch larger than the Kindle, measured diagonally, but the device is expected to be considerably more expensive due to its touch support, color screen, and more powerful horsepower under the hood, with a potential price tag of $1,000.

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