Amazon can't lose

In just a few short days, the iPad goes on sale in the USA. Some keen Aussie Apple fans are making the trek to pick one up early, and those with slightly less disposable income are awaiting the exact details of what "late April" actually means in terms of a local release date (latest rumour suggests the 24th, but, well, pinches of salt leap to mind).

The iPad is touted to be many things, but one of the key features of the platform is its ability to enable electronic publishing — whether that's the latest Stephanie Meyer insult to the humble noun or the Sydney Morning Herald. In that guise, it takes on a number of other e-reader devices, none more prominent than Amazon's Kindle e-reader.

The battle lines, it would seem, are drawn, and there can be only one winner.

OK, that's hyperbole, but go with me here. I suspect the winner will be Amazon.

Not that Amazon winning means that Apple loses; quite the reverse. Apple can still "win", in that it will sell lots and lots of iPads. If the initial sales figures are to be believed, it's already pre-sold a bucketload, although initial sales figures aren't always a good indicator of future sales performance.

That thought came to me when I was checking out Amazon's Kindle for Mac client. It's a neat enough piece of software if you already have a Kindle account, which I do owing to reviewing the initially-available Kindle late last year. It's good for displaying books and, naturally enough, there are hooks to take you (via your browser) to Amazon's Kindle store. There's also an iPhone/iPod touch application that does pretty much the same thing.

Amazon's got a lot of capacity to absorb losses (or even only partial victories) due to its widespread e-commerce stance. To describe Amazon simply as a bookseller would be to miss the point. Amazon also sells DVDs, CDs … heck, it's even possible to buy barbecue sauce via Amazon.com, although getting it shipped to Australia might be a little challenging!

Amazon's positioned itself everywhere, and nowhere is that more evident than with the Kindle, which has client applications everywhere. It seems highly unlikely that the iPhone Kindle client won't run on the iPad — it is after all, mostly text we're talking about here — and I'd hazard the guess that Amazon's programming team has an iPad client ready to go. Whether Apple would approve it is anybody's guess. The point is, you buy a Kindle book or magazine, and you can read it on your iPhone, on your iPad, on your Mac, on a PC and on a Kindle.

Buy an iPad book, and you can read it on ... an iPad.

There's no clear path for iPhone/iPod touch users to buy or read books just yet, and I doubt Apple would scupper early iPad sales by introducing that feature particularly quickly, although I'd love to be proved wrong there.

I don't own either a Kindle or an iPad yet. That's partly down to my own budgetary issues, and partly because I'm fence-sitting. Certainly, the iPad's feature set dwarfs that of the Kindle, and the pricing for the entry level model is a solid kick in the teeth for the larger Kindle DX. Looking at the bigger picture, however, I could solidly envisage buying an iPad and then filling it with Kindle books. Apple doesn't exactly lose under that scenario, but it doesn't win as many of my dollars as it could.

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