Kindle for iPhone, PC & Mac: Is Amazon Getting Ready to Ease Out of the eBook Hardware Business?

Given all the press the Amazon Kindle gets, I’m somewhat surprised that I rarely see any in the “wild”. In fact, the only place I’ve seen it in person is at a local tech geek gathering. Contrast this to the near ubiquity of the various iPod and iPhone models. I’ve been reading Kindle ebooks on my iPhone and iPod touch and have enjoyed the experience enough to have purchased three novels so far. We learned last week that a Kindle for the PC (Windows) will be available in beta-testing soon. And, there was a lower key acknowledgement that a Kindle ebook reader for the Mac is being developed too (from Fast Company)…

Amazon’s Working on Kindle Reader Software for Mac, Too

With Kindle ebook readers available or soon to be available for the iPhone, PC, and Mac, why does anyone need the Kindle hardware? The obvious answer is that the Kindle (device) provides a better reading experience because of its display and long battery life. But, does Amazon itself need the Kindle? Although I’ve compared the Kindle and relationship to the iPod and iTunes Store, there is a huge and fundamental difference: Apple is hardware manufacturer that uses the iTunes Store to help sell iPods and iPhones. Amazon sells books and other goods. It created and sells the Kindle’s to sell more books. The Kindle probably represents a giant pain-point for Amazon. Hardware support, software development, and maintaining wireless carrier relationships (Sprint PCS for legacy Kindles and AT&T for new models) is not part of its core compentency. I would not be too surprised if Amazon starts dialing down the marketing focus on the Kindle after Kindle for the PC and Kindle for the Mac software becomes available. The non-Kindle devices (including the iPhone/iPod touch) are all able to display color ebook pages unlike the Kindle hardware. This could be a huge advantage for ebooks whose color graphics are important (graphs in scientific texts, art and photography books, and graphic novels come to mind).

Amazon might be chuckling behind the scenes watching Barnes and Noble and other firms launch ebook readers or freshen their line (Sony) while they prepare to move the ebooks to other platforms with color displays.