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A stock image from E Ink showing its color display technology

There have been tons of reports lately about Amazon.com planning to take on Apple’s iPad with its own color-screen, Android-based tablet — including a particularly juicy one today out of Taiwan indicating that Amazon’s new device could arrive for this year’s holiday season. It would be the latest battleground in the growing war between Apple and Amazon.

Amazon isn’t commenting, so as with most of these things, figuring out what it’s doing is like putting together a puzzle. And in hindsight, one of the key pieces seems to have been placed on the table nearly a year ago. That’s when Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, speaking to Charlie Rose, had this to say on the possibility of a color-screen Kindle e-reader.

JEFF BEZOS: So I will give you an example. We can put a regular color display on this. It would be very easy to do. In fact, it would be cheaper than this fancy electronic paper display, but you wouldn’t want to read a couple hundred pages on it.

CHARLIE ROSE: You want to read black and white.

JEFF BEZOS: You’d want to read this electronic paper display. You don’t want that flashlight shining in your eyes while you are trying to read that’s from that — that emissive display causes so much eyestrain, because it is like reading while somebody’s shining light in your eyes.

Note in particular that Bezos didn’t agree with Rose’s statement limiting the possibilities to black and white. In fact, E Ink, which supplies the electronic paper display for the Kindle, has been working for some time on a color version of its technology. Which is why it’s interesting that today’s report from DigiTimes indicates that E Ink is among the partners working with Amazon on the new tablet.

Another interesting nugget: The device will reportedly use Fringe Field Switching (FFS) technology from E Ink subsidiary Hydis, allowing low-power color screens to be read in direct sunlight. Amazon has openly poked fun at the iPad’s screen glare in videos and ads including this one from last fall.

It’s not clear whether Amazon’s new device will be more along the lines of a color Kindle with extra capabilities, or an Android tablet well-suited to reading. Maybe that distinction isn’t important.

What is clear is that Jeff Bezos thinks differently than Steve Jobs, and they’re about to go head-to-head.

Todd Bishop of GeekWire can be followed on Facebook and Twitter. No flashlights required.

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