Although it's unlikely Kindle will have as many apps as the iPhone, Amazon announced an initiative today that suggests it is expanding the device's capabilities: it's extending its offer for creators to upload and sell content in the Kindle Store to software developers. For two years, the company has invited authors and publishers to do just that, and later this year, developers will be able to follow suit. Amazon's Kindle Development Kit will let developers access programming interfaces, tools, and documentation to build active content for Kindle.

Ian Freed, v-p of Amazon Kindle, said, "We've heard from lots of developers over the past two years who are excited to build on top of Kindle.... [W]e look forward to being surprised by what developers invent." Already, the company announced that software and game publisher Handmark is building an active Zagat guide featuring ratings and reviews for restaurants in cities around the world, and Sonic Boom is building word games and puzzles.

Next month, participants in the limited beta will be able to download the Kindle Development Kit, access developer support, test content on Kindle, and submit finished content. There will be a waiting list "as space becomes available," Amazon said.

While most of the technology and content world is waiting for Apple to unveil its much anticipated tablet mobile computing device next week, it's not surprising that Amazon has been announcing a series of new features and policies for the Kindle, including offering a much increased royalty rate for e-books self-published through the Kindle. Nevertheless, the effectiveness and utility of running apps on the Kindle and other e-ink devices—with their b&w screens, relatively low computing power and slow page refresh rates—remains to be seen. Other e-ink manufacturers, including B&N and both its Nook and the IREX e-readers, have also suggested that they are considering soliciting the development of applications for their e-readers from third-party software developers.