’s distinctive site layout may be getting a makeover. The online retail giant has been testing out a lighter, more tablet-friendly way for their customers to shop. While this may in fact be only a small change, some are wondering whether this is a sign of something bigger.

A new Amazon with less clutter would certainly make things easier for iPad 2 owners (or those who bought the HP Touchpad at firesale prices or willingly got gouged on eBay soon after) but it might look even better on something not manufactured by Apple. PC World is reporting that production on an Amazon tablet to compete with the iPad will begin early next year.

Would an Amazon tablet stand a chance against the iPad? Research In Motion’s Blackberry PlayBook looked to grab a chunk of the market away from Apple, but sales have instead fallen well short of projections and it now has taken a price cut. One key difference that may make Amazon a more worthy competitor is the ease with which it can offer digital books, music, video and software. Not to mention an Amazon tablet could boast a variety of ways to optimize a consumer’s experience with those products. If such accessibility and optimization can be translated into buyers, things could get interesting.

Amazon’s new site design may also be a step toward the company getting involved in the “smartphone square dance” that’s currently going on. After Google finally made it legal with Motorola, primarily to ensure utmost compatibility between phones produced by the manufacturer and Google’s Android operating system, rumors have swirled that Microsoft is flirting with Nokia while Samsung has been making eyes at HP from across the dancefloor. After Google, Amazon seems like the next most eligible company to get involved in the smartphone market, so an optimized site for handheld devices would seem to fit nicely with that prediction. While it’s still likely a long way off, maybe it’s not as far as you might think – Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, already wants to patent an airbag for your smartphone.

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