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Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) has been a longtime favorite among stock pickers at The Motley Fool. In just the seventh issue of our flagship Stock Advisor service, co-founder David Gardner recommended the stock as a long-term winner. Since that selection in fall 2002, Amazon is up nearly 1,200%.
Of course, Amazon's a much different company today than it was in 2002. The company has moved beyond being an Internet retailer to areas like cloud-computing hosting, offering its Kindle e-reader, offering digital downloads.
Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal reported that the company is readying another product that'll move it away from its e-tailing roots: a tablet. While Amazon has proven its ability to sell a unique hardware product thanks to the Kindle's success, the Kindle was a differentiated product breaking new ground. In the tablet arena, there's a glut of tablets featuring Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) operating system from companies like Dell (Nasdaq: DELL ) , Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI ) , Samsung, LG, and many others.
Will Amazon's media services and ability to promote its tablet across its website let the company break free from the Android pack? Do any Android tablets pose a threat to Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPad? I asked three Fool analysts to weigh in.
Fool contributor and Rule Breakers analyst Tim Beyers
Could Amazon's tablet take off? Sure. The price is likely to be enough of a discount off the iPad to make it worthwhile for some. Apple's holiday sales could take a hit as a result.
Yet I see this as a long shot. Why? Google controls the fate of this Kindle, and key app developers Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX ) and Hulu have shown little interest in creating software for the tablet edition of the Android OS. And that's despite research that says consumers want to use their tabs as TVs.
Yet I can't blame the developers. Google just released a new version of its Android Market app with support for movie rentals. From what I can tell, it'll be a great update -- for smartphone users. Android tablets have been shut out. Um, hello? Is anyone there? Tablets should be first to get movies since they offer a form factor more conducive to on-the-go viewing.
So while I like Amazon and the Kindle format, the Android partnership puts the new tab in unproven hands. Expect sales to suffer as a result.
Fool contributor Anders Bylund
So Amazon is taking the lessons learned from its market-leading Kindle e-reader and applying them to an Android tablet. I'd assume it to come with an Amazon-crafted user interface on top of whatever Android version lies underneath, making it recognizable, different, and presumably more user-friendly than most of its peers. That's kind of what Amazon does, after all.
That would be enough to make this the best-selling tablet not named iPad, ahead of the competing Streaks, Xooms, and Galaxy Tabs of the world, but I don't think Apple needs to shake in its boots just yet.
The Amazon brand name and distribution system is worth something and will ensure making this tablet a hit. However, Amazon has challenged Cupertino before in markets like online music sales and video rentals, and it's always come up short in spite of enjoying those consumer-facing advantages.
Will hardware retailing be a different story? I doubt it. Android tablets as a whole may eventually pass the almighty iPad line in sales, but in a fragmented manner -- not leaning on any particular product from a single manufacturer.
This tablet will be good or maybe even great for Amazon but no iPad-killer. You heard it here first.
Senior Stock Advisor analyst Bryan White
The Amazon tablet will likely be a device that allows consumers to walk around with the Amazon store in hand including digital books, music, and apps. At Stock Advisor, we expect the device to be priced in a similar fashion as the Kindle, where margins are low-to-non-existent but the value accrues from Amazon's digital-content store. We think Apple's iPad will remain the primary tablet of choice due to its superior design, functionality, and competing App Store, while Amazon's tablet has a great opportunity to attract the lower-end market and grab what little share other Android tablets have.
If you're looking to stay up to date on Amazon's entry into tablets, add the company or any other tablet rivals to our new free My Watchlist service. It's completely free and delivers up-to-date news and analysis on all your favorite stocks.