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What about Amazon's bigger, better tablet?

Why does Amazon seem determined to enter the tablet arena without its best tablet?

It's expected that Amazon will reveal its scrawny "Coyote" tablet this week, rather than the bigger, more glamorous "Hollywood" concept.

It's widely expected that tomorrow in New York, Amazon will unveil its much-anticipated tablet, the device many headline writers promise will at least maim the iPad, if not commit a full-blown 187 on its ass. So why does it feel like the year the Sega Genesis came out and I got a clearance-shelf Sega Master system for Christmas?

Probably because the tablet that we'll reportedly see Jeff Bezos introduce this week--the Kindle Fire, a 7-inch, backlit tablet modeled after RIM's PlayBook with Wi-Fi only and no camera--is not the coolest tablet Amazon has been working on.

Since the spring, we've heard rumors, tips from anonymous sources, and analysts all describing Amazon's work on two tablets--a 7-incher and a 10-inch version that could feature all sorts of goodies, including free 3G, free Amazon Prime, and a dual-mode option that makes it possible to flip between a backlight and e-ink.

But for the past month, it seems that Amazon has decided to turn its attention to getting out only the smaller tablet for the holiday shopping season. Unfortunately, the tablet/e-reader/whatever that will be introduced tomorrow will likely be the one we've known all summer by its code name, "Coyote"--a scavenging canine that feeds on nature's scraps in its most harsh environments--and not the larger one with all the sweet goodies code-named "Hollywood"--the center of all that is decadent and glamorous in our universe.

There's an outside chance that both tablets could be introduced tomorrow, but most reports have the big-time 10-inch Hollywood tab following the 7-incher at some point next year.

So what gives? Why does Amazon seem determined to come out of the gate into the crowded tablet arena armed with a half-charged taser instead of a bazooka?

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Apparently, Amazon has decided it doesn't want to compete head-to-head with the iPad. More likely, it's got its eyes on the Nook 2, which is supposed to be dropping any day now. The Nook has already become a popular choice with folks looking for a basic tablet that's much cheaper than the iPad. The Amazon tablet isn't expected in stores before November, so the early announcement could be a move to preempt the next Nook.

Another possibility is that Amazon wouldn't be able to deliver on the hype surrounding the expected low price-point of its tablet debut with the bigger "Hollywood" tablet and all its supposed bells and whistles. With all the talk about a possible "loss leader" from Amazon to push tablets into the hands of potential shoppers, coupled with the rush on discontinued $99 HP TouchPads, another new $500 tablet might have a hard time wooing consumers away from the iPad.

Even so, it seems like now is the time to go big or stay home. A dual-mode Kindle/tablet hybrid with free 3G sure sounds like an easy sell for the hot new gift item of the holiday season to me, even if it does cost more than $300. Besides, between now and 2012 is an eternity in tech time. By then we might be anticipating the latest entry into the tablet market by Netflix or Hulu or--why not?--CBS Interactive!

Carpe diem, Mr. Bezos. How about a ticket to Hollywood for 4 million to 7 million of your closest friends?