Watch for a Million Amazon Tablets This Year

Amazon.com is expected to ship up to 1.2 million tablet computers by the end of September, making it the biggest order for non-iPad tablet suppliers in the third quarter, according to a new report in DigiTimes .

Citing unnamed tablet PC component suppliers, Taiwan-based DigiTimes also said that Amazon is expected to demand up to 2 million touch-panel displays from suppliers in the August-September period.

The tablet report on Amazon is surprising because the online retailer hasn't announced a tablet yet, and has thus far focused on selling its low-cost, black-and-white Kindle e-readers. The online retailer did not respond to a request for comment.

Rumors have circulated that Amazon is prepping two tablet models , code-named Coyote and Hollywood, both powered by Nvidia processors. The tech website BGR said the entry-level Coyote would run a dual-core Tegra 2 chip, while the more powerful Hollywood would run a quad-core T30 Kal-El processor with a 500% performance boost over Tegra 2.

Nvidia showed a prototype tablet running the quad-core Kal-El in late May before the Computex trade show in Taipei.

The Tegra 2 is used in the Samsung Galaxy Tab, the LG Optimus and the Asus Transformer tablet computers.

If Amazon enters the tablet market, it would join a crowded field led by the Apple iPad . The DigiTimes report said Apple will take delivery of 14 million to 15 million iPads from Foxconn Electronics in the third quarter, up from 10.5 million to 11 million in the second quarter.

All the remaining tablets, mostly running the Android mobile operating system, would account for 6 million to 7 million tablets in the third quarter, according to DigiTimes. The website didn't calculate how many Samsung Galaxy Tabs would be shipping in the third quarter, but said the Acer Iconia Tab A500 would be behind Amazon's, at up to 900,000 units shipped.

Meanwhile, DigiTimes said Motorola Xoom shipments would be 400,000 for the quarter; the Dell Streak would be up to 250,000 and the HTC Flyer would be up to 450,000. The report didn't calculate shipments for the HP TouchPad, which runs WebOS.

One analyst, Bob O'Donnell at IDC, said Amazon "has something in the works, but the question is whether it will be a true tablet or something that competes with the color Barnes & Noble Nook."

The Nook is classified as an e-reader but it has a browser , runs Android and has other attributes that bring it closer to a tablet. It has a pricetag of $249, which is half the cost of most tablets, O'Donnell noted. Nook's lower price helped it take the lead in the e-reader market for the first time over the Kindle and others in the first quarter, IDC reported Friday. O'Donnell said the Nook accounted for about one-third of the 3.3 million e-readers shipped in the first quarter, but he wouldn't share specific numbers.

"We don't know for sure what Amazon is doing, and they've been very quiet," O'Donnell said.

Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates, said Amazon is rumored to be replacing the e-ink display in its Kindle with an LCD display and equipping the device with an Android OS instead of proprietary software.

Gold said the 1.2 million shipments of Amazon tablets in the third quarter as reported by DigiTimes "could make sense" given how successful Amazon has been in the past with the Kindle.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com .

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