NEW YORK (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc is testing a major redesign of its familiar online store as it moves to offer a $250 tablet device to rival Apple Inc's iPad, industry blogs and the Wall Street Journal said.
Changes seen by some visitors to Amazon's store "practically scream 'tablet-optimized'," TechCrunch blogger Sarah Perez wrote over the weekend.
The new pages showed a bigger search bar and less clutter to better highlight music, e-books, digital games and applications from the Amazon Appstore using Google's Android operating system, the blog said.
Amazon, which made its name online by selling books printed on paper, started rolling out the new design in the last days of August, spokeswoman Sally Fouts was quoted on Sunday as telling the Wall Street Journal. Fouts declined to say when the site would be open to all customers, the Journal reported.
The device Amazon is developing sports a back-lit, 7-inch (17.8-cm) screen -- smaller than the iPad's and about the same as Research in Motion's PlayBook, TechCrunch reported earlier. The Amazon tablet is geared toward playing music and movies off the Internet.
TechCrunch, which said it had played with a testing prototype, reported that the plan was for Amazon to offer Amazon Prime -- its $79-a-year Internet streaming service -- for free along with the gadget.
Amazon did not respond immediately to requests for comment.
The Internet retailer's first entry in the tablet computing arena -- its Kindle functions more like an electronic-book reader -- has been touted as a strong contender to Apple, whose iPad2 starts at $499, according to the company's website.
Amazon's tablet will be Wi-Fi only and come with a color touchscreen but a limited 6 gigabytes of memory, the tech blog said.
Motorola and Samsung have only chipped away at Apple's three-quarters share of the market, while Hewlett Packard threw in the towel by announcing it would kill off its TouchPad after a final production run.
This past week, Sony Corp leapt into the field with its own poorly reviewed device.
Analysts have been upbeat on Amazon's gadget, particularly if it beats the iPad on price. It may sell as many as 5 million tablets in the fourth quarter, becoming the top rival to Apple, Forrester Research estimates.
Apple sells between 7 million and 9 million tablets a quarter.
(Reporting by David Henry and Edwin Chan; Editing by Dale Hudson)