Amazon is set to add touchscreen capabilities to its Kindle e-reader in a bid to compete with Apple’s forthcoming iPad tablet computer. The New York Times reports this week that the Internet retail giant has acquired Touchco, a New York-based start-up that specialises in touchscreen technology. A source said that Amazon will merge Touchco’s technology and staff members into its Kindle hardware division – known as Lab126 – which is based in Cupertino, California (also the home of Apple). Neither firm has confirmed the deal, though Touchco appears to have suspended its website pending an official announcement. According to the report, Touchco uses a technology called interpolating force-sensitive resistance, which it puts into displays that can be completely transparent and could cost as little as US$10 a square foot. The technology is considered cheaper that the capacitive touchscreens used in Apple products such as the iPad and iPhone. Both the Kindle and iPad are wirelessly enabled to allow over-the-air downloads of e-books.
The addition of the Touchco technology will allow future generations of the Kindle to incorporate a full colour touchscreen, pitching it squarely against the iPad, notes the New York Times. “[The acquisition suggests that] Amazon is looking to expand its platform perhaps beyond e-readers to encompass more functionality and more content,” said Colin Sebastian, an analyst at Lazard Capital, who added that the technology will also allow Amazon to do things such as replace Kindle’s physical keyboard with a virtual one. The move is the latest attempt by Amazon to beef up the Kindle in light of the new competition. Last month, Amazon said it is to open up the Kindle platform for third-party application developers in an apparent move to mimic Apple’s market-leading App Store.