Crosswords’ creator made a social game with just an idea and passion

Jeb Balise has found success creating an online social game version of the crossword puzzle, which up until his creation has always been basically a one person game. The initial idea was partially brought about when Balise realized that there is an inherent urge of people to look over each other’s shoulder when someone is working on a crossword puzzle in public. People want to share their knowledge and help out someone else who might be stuck. Out of that impulse, the social crossword game was born. Balise brought in technologically savvy people to help interpret his startup into the social and mobile game market and has since found success.

by Joe Osborne

Alright, maybe he had a little bit of cash, butPuzzleSocial founder and Crosswords creator Jeb Balise tells us that he has no previous experience making social games. So, how did Balise go from not knowing the first thing about social games to becoming the CEO of his own social game company with its first game out of the gate? (Hey,Mark Pincus did it.)

A deep love for crossword puzzles, and an idea–a pretty good one, at that. (A recent MBA graduate from Fordham University, Balise has a thing for business, too.) The PuzzleSocial CEO tells us that he’s a tournament-level crossword puzzle solver, having competed in the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament for several years. “For the record, compared to most of the people that go to that tournament, I’m average,” Balise humbly admits.

It was thanks to his time competing that Balise came up with PuzzleSocial. “[I found that] once you add the social nature of certain games such as multiplayer, they can spread so quickly and people can have a lot of fun playing together,” Balise says. “That was a remarkable sort of thing that happened that I was only able to catch on because I was playing the [crosswords].”

The Fordham graduate soon realized that the world’s crossword puzzles were made by a surprisingly small amount of people. That was about 14 months ago, and soon after Balise reached out to professional crossword puzzle constructors behind the puzzles readers of NewsweekThe Onion’s A.V. Club and over 200 other newspapers and online news outlets worldwide enjoy. “Once I put two and two together that, ‘Hey, we could all get together and put these great crosswords on the most powerful distribution platform ever to exist,’ you know, we could make some cool things happen,” Balise tell us.

Of course, not knowing much about game development, the PuzzleSocial founder had to seek out those that did. Balise calls it a lucky break that he found the game developers that he did. The first designer he hired to work on Crosswords has moved into his New York City office. Today, Balise and his team of about 10 developers are working with 50 of the most syndicated crossword puzzle creators in the world. “I haven’t taken a day off in 14 months, and I’ve enjoyed every single second of it.”

Now that Crosswords is available to the public, it’s initially drawn a crowd reminiscent of the average social gamer: middle-aged to older folks (that likely have experience with crosswords). However, we’re told that this is just the beginning. When asked about plans for future growth, Balise says he plans to make its puzzles appeal to younger crowds both through social features like real-time Doubles Play and Celebrity Crosswords chock-full of current events and topics you’d find on TMZ.

“The typical way, just as you said, is that you’re solving a crossword puzzle in the paper. How many times have we experience someone looking over someone’s shoulder and chiming in with an answer? In this case, you don’t have to do that,” Balise says. “We want to prove to the world that crosswords are for all ages.”

As for the future beyond Crosswords, the PuzzleSocial founder unsurprisingly has little he can talk about. What we do know is that PuzzleSocial has plans to launch two more social games and two mobile games in 2012. However, Balise promises that his company’s mission to promote education through social will permeate throughout. “The philosophy behind what we’re building lends itself to other games that can be built both in the puzzle world and beyond.”

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Nokia to launch Windows tablet mid-2012

Cellphone maker Nokia plans to launch a tablet that runs on Microsoft’s Windows operating system in the summer of 2012, the head of Nokia France told Les Echos newspaper in an interview published on Wednesday.

Nokia has said using Microsoft Windows 8 for tablets could be an interesting opportunity for the company but it has not yet unveiled any launch plans.

The tablet would compete with Apple’s iPad.

“In June 2012, we will have a tablet that runs on Windows 8,” Paul Amsellem told the newspaper.

When asked to comment on the report a Nokia spokesman said: “We have not announced any specific plans as it relates to tablets.”

Nokia last month unveiled two sleek new Microsoft Windows phones in time for Christmas, a first step in the ailing cellphone maker’s fightback against Apple and Google.

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Walmart Launches New Mobile Apps

Walmart (NYSE:WMT – News) has launched new applications for the iPhone and iPad designed to give its customers tools to plan their weekly shopping trips as well as a new way to access Walmart both in-store and online. The new apps will enable millions of customers to enjoy an enhanced, seamless shopping experience across Walmart’s 3,800 U.S. stores and through mobile devices.

Today’s announcement builds on Walmart’s commitment to technology innovation for the next generation of commerce. The two free applications are the first of several mobile products to be rolled out from the recently formed @WalmartLabs group under Walmart’s Global eCommerce unit. The iPhone application features new updates that include smart shopping lists with integrated access to manufacturers’ coupons and support for QR code scanning. Walmart’s first-ever iPad application delivers a rich experience that allows customers to browse, search and purchase their favorite items online, as well as the ability to browse the inventory of their local store from the comfort of their home.

“Today, mobile allows us to have a similar personal relationship with our customers that Sam Walton had with his customers 50 years ago when he opened the first Walmart store,” said Gibu Thomas, Walmart’s senior vice president of mobile and digital. “We can greet each of our customers by name, guide them through our stores, and give them product recommendations and real-time savings — all from their mobile devices.”

Consumers are using mobile devices in greater numbers this year to enhance their shopping experience. According to a recent Nielsen report,* 50 percent of mobile phone users will have smartphones by the end of 2011, and the National Retail Federation** estimates that over 52 percent of smartphone users will use their devices for holiday shopping.

New iPad App

Walmart’s new app created specifically for the iPad places more time and money-saving power into the hands of its customers. Key features include:

* Touch-optimized shopping: Browse, search and purchase favorite items by combining traditional ways of shopping with the unique capabilities of the iPad. * Browse My Store: Select any local Walmart store to see product availability and detailed information specific to that store.

* Extended inventory: Shop and purchase merchandise in addition to viewing local store inventory.

Updated iPhone App — Smart Shopping Lists & QR Code Scanner

Walmart’s new updates to its iPhone app deliver one of the most comprehensive shopping apps in retail. Creating smart shopping lists, scanning QR codes and accessing product information has never been easier. Key features include:

* Voice: Add items to shopping list by speaking, typing or scanning bar codes.

* Budgeting tools: Calculate total price in real-time as specific items are added to mobile shopping lists.

* Manufacturer’s coupons: View applicable manufacturer coupons for products carried in local Walmart stores.

* Product information: Access product details, including customer ratings and reviews, as well as local product availability and prices.

* Sharing: Email shopping list to friends and family.

* Store Item Finder beta: Display in-store aisle location of products in select stores across the country.

The iPad app is now available for free through Apple’s App Store in the Lifestyle category, and the updated iPhone app will be available soon. More information is available at

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Matthew Roszak Bloomberg Businessweek Profile

The business profile that can be found at the link found below may be of interest to my fellow venture capitalists and business partners.  This Bloomberg Businessweek profile details by professional background and current employment positions.  Please take a moment to look over my profile found here.

Matthew Roszak

Thank you!


The iPhone’s Power vs. Samsung’s Surging Strength

By Rachelle Dragani

New numbers from Strategy Analytics show that for the first time, Samsung shipped more smartphones globally than Apple over a recent three-month period. The standings add heat to an already-hot rivalry that’s spilled into courtrooms all over the world in the form of patent disputes. However, that period covered by the numbers ended before the release of the iPhone 4S.

Siri has become the star feature of the new iPhone 4S. The voice recognition technology blends convenient utility with a dash of techno-personality. It’s capable of managing contacts, taking dictation for an email, and offering up witty banter about a seemingly endless variety of subjects.

It’s also capable of driving iPhone sales through the roof.

But the software offers no fun for users of Apple’s (Nasdaq: AAPL) earlier phones like the iPhone 4. Although Siri is technically a software improvement, it was not bundled in with Apple’s free iOS 5 upgrade. To get Siri, one has to buy an iPhone 4S.

Hacker Steven Troughton-Smith wanted to change that.

His findings revealed that Siri can indeed be made to run on an iPhone 4, according to a videoon 9to5Mac. However, the operation was a highly technical one that most consumers wouldn’t opt to attempt themselves. Also, in order to work, Siri must connect with Apple’s servers. There’s a good chance that Apple could crack down on non-4S devices trying to operate the software.

In limiting Siri to its newest phone, Apple may be attempting to drive new sales. It’s also possible Apple’s servers might not be prepared to handle the influx of users if it had made Siri available to millions of existing iPhone 4 units. In the first couple days after Siri launched, and then more sporadically afterward, iPhone 4S users complained about Siri being down.

Samsung Competition

Siri is one component of the new iPhone keeping customers happy and lines long, but new numbers released from Strategy Analyticsshow that for the first time, Samsung shipped more smartphones globally than Apple did during a recent three-month period.

The report states that Samsung shipped 27.8 million handsets, or 23.8 percent of global smartphone shipments. In the same period — before the iPhone 4S was released — Apple came in second, shipping 17.1 million units, or 14.6 percent of shipments. Nokia (NYSE: NOK) trailed Apple closely, with 14.4 percent of shipments. Overall smartphone shipments were up 44 percent from last year, largely in part to increased sales in emerging markets.

Though it’s the first time Samsung and its Android handsets have topped the list of smartphone shipments, there’s little reason for Apple to be alarmed yet. The time period reported on was measured just before the iPhone 4S was released, reflecting a consumer base that was waiting for the update.

Since then, iPhone 4S sales have broken sales records. With many retailers, customers still have to reserve a phone instead of just walking into the store and being able to buy one, a phenomenon that doesn’t normally occur with Samsung devices.

More importantly, smartphones being shipped doesn’t necessarily mean the devices are being bought.

“You have to look at the sell-through data. With the iPhone 4S, the sell-through is extremely solid. If that were the case with Samsung, you’d have to say, ‘wow, they did something right,’ but shipment isn’t always relevant because anyone can produce and ship a certain number of phones, but if they’re not being bought, that’s another story,” Trip Chowdhry, senior analyst for Global Equities Research, told MacNewsWorld.

Waxing and Waning Normal

Slight ups and downs are expected in smartphone sales, especially in a dense market, and Samsung is currently capitalizing on all the ups. It’s tapping into a largely untouched global market and is offering dependable, well-received handsets at lower prices than the iPhone. It also has many more offerings than Apple’s single mobile line.

Apple’s strengths include its marketing, creation of an ecosystem and staying power, though, and not many consumers are ready to move on from the latest and greatest iPhone. The company has taught its users to continue that marketing cycle through word of mouth via their Apple gadgets, and the loyal user base grows.

“We see that iPhone 4S users are both delighted and talking loudly about their experiences in social media. Users report high satisfaction on iPhone 4S for speed and performance, usability, the operating system and camera. A great user experience wins every time,” Robyn Palmer, cirector of Marcomm for Argus Insights, told MacNewsWorld.

Though the growing competition from Samsung will likely make the heated patent battles between the two companies even more vicious, this isn’t a giant threat to the iPhone maker in the foreseeable future.

“Customers continue to report increased delight with the iPhone 4S over time. The Samsung Galaxy S II is following a typical launch pattern where delight is high and then wanes, buzz is high and then wanes. Apple has no need for concern — yet,” said Palmer.

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Sprint Announces Next-Generation Mobile Solution for Hard of Hearing Android Users

Sprint today announced the availability of Wireless CapTel by Sprint powered by Raketu, an application on select Android phones that increases accessibility in mobile communications for individuals who are hard-of-hearing.

Wireless CapTel by Sprint allows users to read conversations with real-time word-for-word captions on their wireless phones. Wireless CapTel by Sprint users place a call in the same way they would when using a traditional phone – by dialing the number directly on the device. The revolutionary application then connects callers directly to the CapTel service when the phone is dialed. When the receiving party answers, callers can listen to what the other person is saying and also read captions on the phone’s display screen.

The application can be downloaded on select Android 2.2 or higher devices from the Android Market for free with an Everything Data plan*.

Wireless CapTel calls are automatically routed through a captioning service. Users simply give friends, family, and other contacts their specialized Wireless CapTel by Sprint phone number to receive captions on every call.

“Sprint Relay is pleased to add another groundbreaking solution to its portfolio – and bring to the market a service that improves our customers’ experience,” said Mike Ellis, director-Sprint Relay.

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Google and Samsung unveil the Galaxy Nexus

by Andy Rubin

Wednesday morning in Hong Kong—together with Samsung—we unveiled Galaxy Nexus, the first phone designed for the latest release of Android 4.0, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich.

With a super slim profile, Galaxy Nexus features a 4.65” Contour Display with true high definition (720p) resolution and a lightning-fast dual core 1.2ghz processor combined with 4G LTE or HSPA+ technology. Galaxy Nexus also features the latest in software: Ice Cream Sandwich makes Android simple and beautiful, and takes the smartphone to beyond smart.

Beauty and simplicity

With Ice Cream Sandwich, our mission was to build a mobile OS that works on both phones and tablets, and to make the power of Android enticing and intuitive. We created a new font that’s optimized for HD displays and eliminated all hardware buttons in favor of adaptable software buttons. We also dramatically improved the keyboard, made notifications more interactive and created resizable widgets.

The desktop-class browser is significantly faster, featuring a refined tab manager and the ability to sync your bookmarks with Google Chrome. Ice Cream Sandwich also features the best mobile Gmail experience to date, with a new design that lets you quickly swipe through your inbox and search messages even when you’re offline. Calendar boasts a clean new look and you can zoom into your schedule with a pinch.

Connect and share People are at the heart of Ice Cream Sandwich. We rethought how you browse your contacts with the new People app, which combines high-resolution photos and updates from Google+ and other social services. It’s also easier to capture and share your life with family and friends. Galaxy Nexus sports a high-end camera with zero shutter lag, automatic focus, top notch low-light performance and a simple way to capture panoramic pictures. Shoot amazing photos or 1080p video, and then edit and share them directly from your phone.

Beyond smart Galaxy Nexus isn’t just a smartphone—it’s beyond smart. Ice Cream Sandwich gives you complete control over the amount of mobile data you use by helping you better understand and manage it. We’re also introducing Android Beam, which uses near field communication (NFC) to instantly share webpages, YouTube videos, maps, directions and apps by simply tapping two phones together. Face Unlock uses state-of-the-art facial recognition technology to unlock your phone with nothing more than a smile.

This weekend marks the third birthday of the G1, the first-ever Android phone. Nine releases later, more than 550,000 Android devices are activated daily.

Starting in November, Galaxy Nexus will be available in the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia. Check out the Nexus website for a product tour and more info.

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Sprint to Reveal IPhone Cost to Fix ‘Mistake,’ Chairman Says

By Scott Moritz

Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) Chairman James Hance said the company made a mistake in failing to disclose the future costs of selling Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s iPhone and it will provide the information this month.

The third-largest U.S. wireless operator fell two trading days in a row after an Oct. 7 investor meeting in New York, sliding 26 percent to the lowest level since February 2009. The event grew “ugly,” according toWalter Piecyk, an analyst with BTIG LLC, as Sprint said it needs to raise capital and refused to give detailed forecasts in response to repeated questions.

The iPhone, which Sprint began selling this month for the first time, has upfront expenses because the company subsidizes the cost to consumers in exchange for service revenue.

“Friday was tough on the stock, tough on everybody in terms of the way it came across,” Hance said in an interview. “It was a mistake not to disclose the impact of the iPhone — a mistake we will fix. We will talk about the impact when we talk about the third-quarter earnings.”

The chairman also said Sprint’s board supports Chief Executive Officer Dan Hesse and his management team. Sprint has tumbled 83 percent since Hesse took over in December 2007, through yesterday, compared with an 18 percent drop in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index. The decline, punctuated by the analyst day drop, has put the CEO “on thin ice,” said Ed Snyder, an analyst with Charter Equity Research in San Francisco.

“There’s really no thought of doing anything with anyone on the management team,” Hance said. “We are supportive of management.”

‘Blame Us All’

“What we should have done is a better job of disclosing everything financially — iPhone, Clearwire, all the questions hanging out there,” Hance said.

“I blame us all, frankly,” he said, referring to the company and board. “Collectively we missed it.”

Sprint rose 3.8 percent to $2.47 at 10:18 a.m. New York time and had dropped 44 percent this year before today.

At least seven analysts cut their ratings on the stock after the investor meeting, citing concerns that rising spending will hurt liquidity. Sprint, based in Overland Park, Kansas, said it will raise money to shift to long-term evolution, or LTE, wireless technology, the standard used by AT&T Inc. (T) and Verizon Wireless.

The latest upgrade strategy represents one of several strategic shifts that are getting expensive for shareholders, said Ben Abramowitz, an analyst with Kaufman Bros.

“Management credibility is lost with investors,” Abramowitz wrote about Sprint, as he downgraded the stock to “hold” from “buy.”

Network Vision

Sprint has been struggling to compete with AT&T and Verizon, the country’s largest wireless operators. Sprint has lost money for 15 consecutive quarters and in July missed second-quarter estimates by enough that its stock dropped 16 percent, at the time the largest decline since 2008.

At the strategy summit last week that Sprint called Network Vision, Hesse and his lieutenants explained how the company would upgrade its wireless network for the higher-speed LTE technology. Still, Hesse and Chief Financial Officer Joseph Euteneuer didn’t provide forecasts for profit or revenue, and they said all the financial information provided excluded the impact of the iPhone.

“They have a real credibility problem right now,” said Scott Dinsdale, a high-yield bond analyst at Montpelier, Vermont-based KDP Investment Advisors. “We were really positive on management beforehand because they’ve done a really good job of navigating the company through a lot of pitfalls. Now I feel like they’ve got an incomplete plan.”

‘Seriously Important’

Hance said the meeting was designed to explain how Sprint would simplify its wireless networks, shifting to new technologies to save money in the long term.

“That was seriously important to Sprint,” he said.

Analysts and investors expressed frustration over the lack of clarity about the relationship with partner Clearwire Corp. (CLWR) Though Sprint now uses Clearwire’s network to provide high-speed, fourth-generation wireless services, Hesse said it would only commit to using Clearwire’s network through 2012 and may not continue after that. Clearwire plunged 32 percent that day.

When Craig Moffett, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., asked whether Clearwire will be able to survive on its own, Hesse said analysts would have to ask Clearwire about its financial position. He also said service for Sprint customers would continue even if Clearwire files for bankruptcy.

Hance said the partnership is still important to Sprint.

“No question we want them to do well; it’s in our interest that they do well,” he said. “Nothing good happens in a restructuring and there’s nothing good in the outcome of that.”

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A Buyer’s Guide To The New iPhone 4S: To Upgrade Or To Wait

The eternal question when it comes to new technology: Should I upgrade now or should I wait for the next improvement/release (whenever that is)?

This is the question every iPhone user is asking themselves about now because Apple is coming out with its latest iPhone the 4S. However, rumors abound that the iPhone 5 will be coming out within the next year. So should you spend the money now for a slight upgrade, or wait util the 5 comes out for a larger influx of upgrades and features? Really this question comes down to personal preference and what kind of smart phone you are using now. Essentially, if you already have an iPhone 4 the beneficial upgrade is a slightly faster processor and is probably not worth getting the 4S. On the other hand, if you are using an older model iPhone you will get benefits of a faster processor and operating system and it might be worth it to upgrade now instead of waiting for whenever the 5 will come out. Or, what if you are one of the millions not yet using an iPhone but looking to switch over, is now the best time? For further in depth analysis of all these options read the article below and see what fits best for you.

By Peter Svensson

Apple is trotting out a new iPhone on Oct. 14, but it’s not the iPhone 5 some were expecting. Instead, it’s a more modest upgrade, the iPhone 4S. Here are some facts to help you decide if it’s time to make the plunge.

– If you own an iPhone 4: The new phone will have a faster processor and a sharper, more responsive camera. Otherwise, it’s pretty much the same. It will come with improved software, but you’ll get that as a free update on your iPhone 4, too.

As an iPhone 4 owner, you should consider the 4S only if you absolutely must have the latest and greatest, or if your old phone is broken. Since the 4S is less than two years old, your carrier will probably make you pay more than the $199 base price if you upgrade, because you haven’t “paid off” the subsidized price of your old phone yet.

There’s speculation that the more significant iPhone 5 upgrade may be less than a year away, and it could add important new features that are worth waiting for.

– If you own an older iPhone: Apple’s new software, iOS 5, will work on the iPhone 3GS, but not the original iPhone or 3G. Take the launch of the iPhone 4S as a good opportunity to upgrade to a faster, more responsive phone, with a sharper screen.

The big cost of owning an iPhone isn’t in the purchase price, it’s in your monthly service fees. Upgrading your phone every two years is a minor cost compared to paying your monthly bill over the same period. So take advantage of your carrier’s phone subsidy and let it treat you to a new iPhone. Because Apple charges about $600 for a phone that costs $199 in the store, it’s the phone company that eats most of the upfront cost of the phone.

– If you don’t have a smartphone: iPhones are still the kings of the smartphone world, with unsurpassed access to high-quality applications. But they’re also expensive. That may not be immediately obvious in the cellphone store, where their $199 price tag (or, in the case of the iPhone 3GS, $0 price tag) looks comparable to many other phones. Carriers require contracts when selling iPhones at that price, and the available plans aren’t cheap, in part because you’ll need a data plan. In effect, you’ll be paying off that expensive phone over two years, through your monthly bill.

If you want a smartphone for less, look at getting a handset that runs Google Inc.’s Android software from a no-contract carrier like Virgin Mobile, MetroPCS or Cricket. You’ll be paying $149 and up for the phone, but the monthly cost will be lower. The biggest weakness of Android phones is that there are fewer good third-party applications available for them, but you’ll get roughly 80 percent of the functionality of an iPhone for 50 percent of the cost.

– If you’re a Sprint subscriber: If you’ve nursed a longing for an iPhone but haven’t yet moved over to AT&T or Verizon, now’s your chance … probably. Sprint hasn’t yet said what kind of plans will be available for the iPhone. It’s also not clear if Sprint will sell only the 4S or also the cheaper 4.

But it’s a fair bet that Sprint will keep its unlimited data plans as a way to lure subscribers from Verizon and AT&T, which cap monthly data usage on smartphones.

It’s worth noting that the iPhone won’t support “Sprint 4G,” which is what Sprint calls Clearwire Corp.’s high-speed data network. Sprint sells a number of other smartphones that can access this network for faster Web browsing, downloads and uploads, for no additional cost.

On the other hand, the Sprint iPhone 4S will most likely be able to roam internationally, a very rare feature on Sprint smartphones.

– If you’re an AT&T subscriber: The Big Orange was the first carrier to place caps on the monthly data consumption of its iPhone subscribers, to keep them from overloading its network. The addition of Sprint to the stable of iPhone carriers will probably give you the option to jump ship and get an unlimited data plan, but Sprint hasn’t confirmed this yet.

On the other hand, Sprint’s data speeds are lower than AT&T’s, and it doesn’t have the network of Wi-Fi hotspots that AT&T does.

AT&T will still be the only U.S. carrier to sell the iPhone 3GS, a two-year old model. The price will be cut to nothing, from $49. But AT&T still won’t sell the phone for use on prepaid plans, which could yield substantial savings.

– If you’re a Verizon subscriber: One thing that’s missing from the iPhone 4S is the ability to tap into Verizon’s latest high-speed data networks, which uses the so-called “LTE” technology. That feature might arrive in the next iPhone, which presumably will be the iPhone 5. There’s speculation that we might not have to wait until next summer to see that model.

Apple is usually conservative about adding new wireless technology to its phones, but Verizon has been selling LTE phones for half a year already.

If you travel a lot, it might be worth upgrading from the 4 to the 4S because you’ll be able to use it on wireless networks in other countries. But the upgrade will be expensive, because Verizon iPhones are so new. You haven’t yet “paid it off” through your monthly service fees.

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Amazon “Fire” Android Tablet Thumbs Its Nose At Google/Marketplace

Amazon’s new “Fire” Android tablet is turning the tablet marketplace upside down. First the device, which uses Google’s mobile OS in the background, has absolutely no branding for Google or Android on the device, and Amazon is using its own browser for web access. In addition, the 7 inch tablet is priced miles ahead of its competitors. So low in fact that it’s expected that the competition won’t even be able to match and compete at Amazon’s price of $200. Some are saying that this Amazon tablet is an “iPad killer”, but Apple certainly has the means to aggressively compete with Amazon especially since it easily holds the number one spot of tablet sellers. For now the main difference between the iPad and the Fire is that the Fire is only 7 inches, but rumors are already floating about Amazon potentially releasing a 10 inch version to compete with the iPad.

by Greg Sterling

Amazon’s new “Fire” Android tablet is an incredible act of audacity that thumbs its nose at Google, while using Google’s mobile OS in the background. Nowhere does the Google or Android brand appear on the device. Amazon has even created its own browser (“Silk”) for mobile web access.

Fire is an Android tablet without the Android Market or Google branding, though Google-branded apps are going to be available on the device.

Many headlines this morning tout the Fire as an “iPad killer.” The 7-inch device, built by the same folks that built the unsuccessful RIM Playbook, may impact iPad sales at the margins but it definitely won’t “kill” the Apple tablet. By contrast the Kindle Fire may have a profound impact on Android tablet sales by other OEMs.

The Kindle Fire’s price ($199) will mean that other 7-inch Android tablet makers (RIM, HTC, Samsung) will have to match or beat that price. And since Amazon is widely suspected to be subsidizing the Fire that feat will be next to impossible or impossible. However the Fire’s pricing will also affect larger Android tablets as well.

Most 10-inch Android tablets didn’t sell because they were a poor imitation of the iPad. Amazon’s aggressive pricing, content and software, together with its brand strength, will mean that 10-inch Android tablets will have to bring down their pricing to below $350 and more likely below $300 if they hope to survive.

But Samsung, Motorola and others are going to be hard-pressed to take such slim margins on tablets. They don’t have the content and services that Amazon has to recoup what they don’t make on hardware sales. It creates a real dilemma for them.

The forthcoming 7-inch Motorola tablet will now have to be repriced. So will the sub-$400 7-inch Toshiba Thrive. And the 7-inch HTC Flyer is now dead at $499. Neither Motorola nor Toshiba thought they’d have to sell their tablets for $199; but they will have to reprice them or they won’t sell — let alone “thrive.”

In fact, most people aren’t even going to look at other Android tablets now. The no-name Android devices that had been selling for at the low end (e.g., Archos) are now effectively dead because of quality issues and a lack of brand strength. These are strong statements but I suspect I’ll be proven right six months from now.

Only the iPad will be able to charge premium prices and withstand Amazon’s pricing strategy. However, if Amazon comes out with a 10-inch tablet and prices it as aggressively that would affect the iPad and force Apple to lower prices. (You can probably bet that a larger tablet is in the works.)

If Amazon becomes the dominant seller of Android tablets — it probably will now — that creates problems for Google on several levels. Google won’t control the Fire’s browser and apps will be sold or made available through Amazon’s App Store not Google’s Android Market. Microsoft could pay Amazon (speculating here) to make Bing the default search engine on Fire, and so on.

My prediction is that Amazon Fire will destroy all other Android tablets in terms of sales. Google will be forced to respond by building its own tablet, like the Nexus smartphones, and sell it at break even or a loss. Paradoxically, the iPad emerges as a much more “Google-friendly” device than Amazon’s Android tablet.

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