Amazon has announced that, from next month, developers will have access to a software-development kit that will let them build apps for the Kindle ebook reader and its obese sibling, the Kindle DX. That means you'll be able to keep up appearances on the train by pretending to read, say, Moby Dick, while actually engaging in something altogether more hangover-friendly.
Given the monochrome, E-Ink display of these devices and the slow page-refresh times, we doubt you'll be feeding that Road Rash addiction on the way to work. But some more sedate games and puzzles -- Sudoku, crosswords and the like -- are almost certainly on the cards, with game developers EA and Sonic Boom both in line to whip up some apps.
A Zagat restaurant-ratings app is also in the works. Amazon suggests other apps might include travel guides that suggest activities based on real-time weather updates, and cookbooks that take people's allergies into account before suggesting recipes. Thrilling stuff.
Some are billing this revelation as an attempt to steal Apple's thunder before the widely anticipated announcement next week of its long-awaited tablet PC (hurry -- bookie Paddy Power is offering 100/1 on it being called the 'iCan't believe it's not a newspaper'). If that's Amazon's intention, it must think Apple has something pretty unimpressive up its unibody aluminium sleeve.
In the US, the apps will be available for wireless download via the Kindle Store, just as books are, later this year. We've sent an email to Amazon asking for confirmation that these apps will be available in the UK, but we haven't heard back yet. We'll post an update when we know. To sign up to the limited beta of the Kindle Development Kit, visit Amazon's Web site.