NEW YORK (Reuters) - With its slim profile, wireless technology, built-in speakers and a massive online marketplace one click away, Amazon.com Inc’s Kindle 2 might be seen as a super-gadget, and perhaps an iPod-killer.
Not so, Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos says. Kindle is about the printed word, and that’s it.
”We are really focused on making the best purpose-built reading device...for books, magazines and newspapers, blogs,“ Bezos told Reuters in an interview. ”
The newest version of the device, priced at $359, was introduced on Monday at the Morgan Library in New York.
In the weeks before the debut of the new version there was speculation about whether Amazon would add additional multimedia features, or cut its price.
The new Kindle does allow users to surf the web wirelessly and play some digital music, and its black and white display can show some photos. But Apple Inc, home of the multimedia iPod, need not worry, Bezos seems to be saying.
“That’s not the focus of the device. That’s not the emphasis of the device. The real focus is reading,” he said. “It’s a device for reading.”
Kindle is a tiny part of Amazon’s web retail business, but its attracts a great deal of interest from every quarter -- from investors to tech web sites. The new Kindle is ”thinner, faster, crisper, with longer battery life and can hold up to 1,500 books, the company said.
First introduced by the Seattle-based company in November 2007, the Kindle has been sold out often since its debut, which Bezos called “a high quality problem.”
“We had way more demand than we ever expected or even hoped for, which meant that we were sold out during two holiday seasons -- which is not a good idea,” he said, punctuating his comment with his signature hearty laugh.
The device is about one-third of an inch thick and the size of a small magazine, with a 6-inch viewing screen.
Much has been made of its price tag, which is about $40 lower than its primary rival, the Sony Reader. But the Kindle still costs over $100 more than smartphones that carry digital books, such as Apple’s iPhone or HTC Corp’s G1, based on Google Inc’s Android technology.
Its price, which is the same as the original Kindle model, also is not far from that of many netbooks -- new low-cost PC’s that carry only limited memory and software, but can surf newspaper websites and blogs and might be able to host digital books.
Kindle features are the reason for its price, Bezos said, although he declined to comment specifically on profitability.
“We can’t make this device less expensive,” he said. “It has this sophisticated EV-DO wireless radio, has the most sophisticated electronic paper display, (and) a very fast processor. It’s just not possible to make this device less expensive.”
Bezos said that so far customers are willing to pay that price, citing the fact that Kindle was sold out as the recession gripped other retailers during the fourth quarter.
“So even in the midst of the worst macro economic environment probably since the Great Depression, people were buying Kindles,” he said.
That good fortune has not spurred Bezos to start building other electronic devices at Amazon, whose online shop sells everything from fingernail-sized memory cards to big screen televisions.”
“We are totally focused on reading,” Bezos said. “We have no plans or thoughts about making any other kinds of devices. We are really focused on this.”
(Additional reporting by Alexandria Sage in San Francisco)
Reporting by Franklin Paul; editing by Carol Bishopric