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Amazon recently acquired the New York based start-up Touchco, which was working on a revolutionary new touch screen technology at the time. Coming right on the heels of the iPad announcement, it’s easy to assume what this means for the Kindle: potentially color and a touch screen.  If Touchco’s technology is what it was promised to be, this could also come at a relatively low-cost (apparently the touch screen technology only costs about $10 a square foot and is remarkably power efficient as well). In addition the technology can distinguish between finger touches and pen marks, which may lead to a device that incorporates handwriting recognition as well as gestures.

There’s one catch. As of last year Touchco was a small company with a technology that seemed promising but not quite commercial yet. So, how soon can the benefits of the acquisition be realized? The iPad as we know will be in the hands of consumers in about 60 days.  It’s important that Amazon not give up the momentum that it has built-in the e-reader space and allow the iPad’s ebook marketplace to take market share.

This depends on how Amazon plans to use the acquisition and Touchco’s technology. If Amazon was already working on the next generation Kindle at its Cupertino based Lab126, and is really looking for some final touches and people from Touchco, we could see a new product relatively soon. Lab126 which introduced us to the Kindle and has played a significant role in revolutionizing the e-reader market, has been recruiting aggressively over the last few months. This suggests that something big is definitely in process.

If I were to make a guess though, I would guess that Amazon was not working on the touch aspect and this is an attempt to get up the curve quickly there. Unfortunately, that would put the development of a touch screen based Kindle at least an year away (likely longer).

I think from Amazon’s perspective, it’s important to get this right. We’ve seen what poorly implemented touch screens can do to the reading experience with the Sony reader. I for one am interested to see what the new device looks like. Lab126 has several former Palm and Apple executives in its ranks, so they should be able to come up with something that competes with Apple’s world class industrial engineering and user experience focus.

Amazon is probably also working hard to improve its Kindle for iPhone app to work on the iPad. Although the app should work as is, almost with no changes at all, it’s important that the company focus on the demands of a big screen. Users are unlikely to be happy with the current blog, magazine and newspaper reading layouts when they have flashy competing apps on the iPad. Amazon must come up with something like what the New York Times did with the great Times Reader app which is an amazingly cool way to show newspaper content on a computer screen.

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