Amazon Drops New Kindle Hint Before Earnings Report

amazon-kindle-1.jpg will report its fourth-quarter earnings on Thursday. Before that, however, perhaps hoping to goose analysts and potential customers, the company is pimping its Kindle Version 2.0. According to this NYT blog account, Jeff Bezos himself will attend the February 8 unveiling of the refreshed device at New York's Morgan Library (because, you know, it's all about the book). Amazon's stock, like that of every other company, fell precipitously last year--about 45 percent. According to Forbes (via AP), Amazon's fourth quarter sales were likely down three to four percent versus the 2007 holiday season, but we'll know more on Thursday.

But Kindle, which is basically the only thing Amazon makes, that bears the company name, has been a bright spot for the company. Just before the holidays, Oprah declared her love for the device, leading CNET to speculate a big sales boost. The NYT report (linked above) says that the Kindle has been sold out and back-ordered since Oprah's endorsement, so it's a good time, when the shelves are metaphorically empty, to tweak the buttons and document zooming function for a relaunch. Question is: Can Amazon really start shipping it in four to six weeks? (Related: will the same $350 price point hold?) And another question: Since, via the Kindle store (on Amazon's Web site), you can subscribe to electronic papers like The New York Times, is that where an e-version of the P-I might end up? You can already subscribe to The Seattle Times via that means, but not the P-I. (Is that a Hearst prohibition?)

Conflict alert: I do have a friend who works in Amazon's Kindle division, but he wasn't consulted for this post. Moreover, per another NYT report, the company won't release unit sales figures for the gizmo, which competes with the iPhone and other devices. But a related NYT blog post quoted an an analyst who predicted 380,000 units sold for last year, and projected $1 billion in Kindle and Kindle-related content sales by 2010. And that's gotta help keep the stock off the floor (it rose $15 to about $50 during the holidays). Or at least out of the basement.

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