Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Report: Amazon to buy touch screen technology company

In a move that would give Amazon important new technology for its Kindle e-reader, the New York Times is reporting that the company has purchased Touchco, a start-up that specializes in touch screen technology.

Touchco's multitouch, clear screen technology

The move would be a sign that Amazon plans to upgrade its pioneering reader and move it beyond the single use device the Kindle is considered now, as well as directly compete against Apple's iPad device scheduled to be released in early April.

In a blog posting late last year the Times touted the Touchco's technology stating that it promises to deliver multi-touch tracking, high-res pen tracking and fine pressure sensitivity.

Earlier Amazon announced that it planned a Kindle application store** along the lines of Apple's app store. If true, this could open up the reader device to apps from publishers, further pushing forward tablet publishing as a legitimate new channel for newspapers and magazines.

Amazon's move is yet another sign that three of the biggest companies in the new media space are not playing nice in the sandbox. Google's move in cell phones certainly is irritating Apple; Apple's purchase of Quattro Wireless is a sign Apple wants its share of the emerging mobile advertising market; Apple's introduction of the iPad directly threatens Amazon; Amazon's brief pricing conflict with Macmillan led to its stock tumbling.

In the meantime, consumers and publishers may benefit from the war between giants as new products are rushed to market, and the tablet publishing format is established.

Unfortunately, price drops do not appear to be in the cards after Amazon was forced to capitulate to Macmillan. But if price levels are too obviously being fixed then look for intervention from the feds, or at least consumer advocates, to try and force the hands of the big three.

** Update: this story from InfoWorld has some information on the Kindle Development Kit Amazon will releasing to developers is a bit of a disappointment.  Here are the reasons (according to the write):  initial developers will be brought in on an invite-only basis, and will be more restrictive than even Apple's app store.