Thursday, October 22, 2009

Despite Qualcomm, Sprint losing Kindle

Earlier this month, Amazon introduced an “international” (i.e. GSM) version of the Kindle 2 that uses AT&T (like the new Barnes & Noble Nook). Now CNET reports they’ve cancelled the CDMA Kindle 2, leaving only the 10" model on the Sprint EV-DO network (for now).

To get it all straight, I had to do some digging. Amazon has thus far released 4 Kindles:
Sprint was clever to partner to get this business, so it’s a shame they’re losing it — particularly since the Kindles began life as Powered by Qualcomm.

The original Kindle was powered by a Qualcomm MSM chip, and according to an iSuppli teardown, the Kindle 2 included a MSM6801A as part of a Novatel Wireless card.

A purported 2008 internal Qualcomm news article credits Qualcomm with working hard to launch the original Kindle:
The device is the result of a two-year collaboration with Qualcomm Enterprise Services, Qualcomm CDMA Technologies, Corporate R&D, Corporate Product Security, the Office of the CTO and Corporate IT.

Amazon was originally introduced to QES through a modem manufacturer who hoped to provide modems for the Kindle. The same company had also worked with QES on the CardioNet project and knew that the wireless connectivity that Amazon envisioned for the Kindle was exactly what QES could deliver.

“The project was a natural fit for QES. We have been delivering end-to-end wireless data services for almost 20 years,” said Susan Hennenfent, Senior Director of Product Development for QES. “Our expertise allows our customers to focus on their businesses while we do what we do best.”
I haven’t seen a teardown on the Kindle 2 International to see whether Qualcomm kept the business or was pushed out of the BOM.

For phones, dual-mode Qualcomm chips have allowed Verizon (and occasionally Sprint) to support global roaming for voice and 3G data. I’m guessing that Amazon decided to switch to GSM rather than pay a premium for the dual-mode chip. Price has been a major concern: the latest Kindle 2 is $259, exactly matching the Nook and a full $100 below the first (CDMA) Kindle 2 when introduced 8 months ago.

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