Kindle counters iPad as Amazon snaps up touch-screen specialist

With Apple’s recently unveiled touch-enabled iPad computer likely to eat into the burgeoning eBook market, online retailer Amazon has acquired an American touch-screen technology business in an attempt to give its Kindle electronic reader a new dimension of appeal.

Citing an unnamed individual situated close to the purchase, The New York Times claims that New York-based Touchco has been purchased by Amazon and will be integrated directly into the company’s Kindle division in California.

If news of the deal is watertight, Amazon will be in a position to add full multi-touch functionality to its Kindle platform, thus elevating the device beyond rival devices such as the Sony Reader and making it better equipped to fend off the looming challenge of Apple’s iPad.

However, with the iPad expected to hit stores in the early spring, it doesn’t leave Amazon with much time to counterpunch. Also, and perhaps more worrying for the Kindle, the entry-level iPad is a versatile and modestly priced tablet computer that carries Apple’s formidable brand power and is far from being just an eBook reader.

For example, the current Kindle reader comes with a 6-inch greyscale display, 3G connectivity, and a price tag of $259 USD, while the base iPad comes with a 9.7-inch full colour display, a multi-touch user interface, Wi-Fi connectivity, an Apple-made 1GHz processor, up to 64GBs of SSD storage, the Safari browser, accelerometer technology, and a price of $499 USD.  

The iPad was officially revealed by Apple on January 27, with company CEO Steve Jobs announcing that the device will be standing on the shoulders of Amazon’s achievements in the eBook sector. The Cupertino-based gadget maker hopes to do this by providing iPad users with instant access and download capabilities through the new iBook Store, which carries the widespread support of major publishing houses.

While neither Amazon nor Touchco have offered official comment on the matter, it is perhaps telling that Touchco’s online Web site carries a notice informing visitors that the company ceased trading in January of 2010.  

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