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A modified version of Google's Android OS powers Amazon's popular Kindle Fire tablet, but being able to take some credit for the Fire's OS apparently isn't enough for the search giant.
Google reportedly believes that it needs a tablet of its own and it could start a fierce battle with Amazon as early as May when it releases an inexpensive 7-inch tablet to take on the Kindle Fire.
According to DigiTimes, Google is working with Asustek on a tablet that would cost $199. That's the current price of the Kindle Fire, but Amazon is also expected to launch as many as four new tablets later this year.
DigiTimes' sources say the ecommerce giant is prepping at least two new tablets for 2012, and that number could grow to four. One of new tablets expected is a 10-inch model that would reportedly cost somewhere in the range of $249 to $299. A $199 Kindle Fire replacement is anticipated as well. The rumour mill is also buzzing with speculation about an 8.9-inch tablet and a 7-inch entry-level tablet that would cost just $169.
All told, Amazon's tablet shipments could hit 20m this year as it launches new tablets, firmly establishing the company as the world's second-leading tablet vendor behind Apple.
For obvious reasons, that raises serious questions about Google, which, if DigiTimes' sources are to be believed, seems determined to do battle in the tablet market at all costs. Unfortunately for Google, its strategy may have the greatest impact on the companies it cares the least about. As DigiTimes notes, Google's cheap Android tablet would likely "bring pressure of price cuts upon other vendors, including Acer, Lenovo and Samsung Electronics."
But none of those vendors have anywhere near Amazon's momentum in the tablet market. And when it comes to competing with Amazon, Google's apparent strategy seems to neglect the fact that Amazon's advantage isn't really hardware -- it's content and content experience, something Google arguably can't compete with.
So where does that leave Google? If the company does try to move aggressively into tablet space, it probably won't hurt Amazon much if at all. But ironically it could conceivably hurt Android by pushing vendors like Acer, Lenovo and Samsung to focus more on Windows 8. On this note, it's worth pointing out that Lenovo has reportedly already made it a priority to have a Windows 8 tablet on the same day Windows 8 is launched.
Obviously, it remains to be seen whether Windows 8 tablets will be a hit with consumers or not, but that doesn't really matter when it comes to the Android tablet market. If Google helps create an environment where current Android tablet manufacturers already struggling to find customers are forced to chop their prices, it could help Microsoft ensure that there's a healthy supply of Windows 8 tablets.