The Nook Tablet is a $249 swipe at Amazon's Kindle Fire (first impressions)

The Nook Tablet is a $249 swipe at Amazon's Kindle Fire (first impressions)

Summary: With Kindle Fire drawing near, Barnes & Noble needs a hit more than ever. But will the Nook Tablet be it?

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TOPICS: Amazon
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Since the release of the Nook Color last year, two major events occurred that have meant a tremendous amount for Barnes & Noble and its future. First, on the traditional book side, there was the death of Borders, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February. It's no secret that traditional book sellers are struggling a bit in the increasingly-digital book world, so the news that Borders was closing its doors was undoubtedly very troubling for Barnes & Noble. But the news on the digital side was perhaps more of a concern: In September, Amazon announced the Kindle Fire, a 7-inch tablet that promised to eat up a sizable portion of the 7-inch tablet marketshare that Barnes & Noble had worked so hard to build up. So you might say that Barnes & Noble has quite a stake in the Nook Tablet, its latest product.

Following The Follower

Listening to Banes & Noble CEO William Lynch talk about the tablet rivalry between his company and Amazon, it felt as it it was Amazon, not Barnes & Noble, that had already released a tablet to the market. "We are trying to lead, not follow," said Lynch, who proceeded to dedicate full minutes of his presentation to discuss the various ways he saw Amazon's tablet as deficient. Is Amazon the underdog, or is Barnes & Noble? No one, not even Barnes & Noble, seems to be sure.

A Curated App Ecosystem

Like the Kindle Fire and the Nook Color, the Nook Tablet features a version of Android so significantly skinned that it barely resembles the Google OS. That's a good thing because it hides many of the rough spots that Android is so famously home to. But it also poses a problem for the tablet's app ecosystem, which is significantly smaller than the default Android Market and subject entirely to Barnes & Noble's critical eye. But the company isn't particularly concerned. Thousands of apps will be available the Nook marketplace in the coming year and all of them will be optimized for a 7-inch form factor. So maybe there is less here to worry about than it might initially appear.

The $50 Amazon Advantage?

In terms of specs, there isn't a tremendous amount that separates the Nook Tablet from the Kindle Fire. Same screen size, similar power and battery life make the tablets more or less indistinguishable. But then there's the pricing. Barnes & Noble plans to sell the Nook for $249, a full $50 more than Amazon is selling the Kindle Fire. Barnes & Noble justifies the price increase based on the Nook Tablet's 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, which is double what Amazon offers with the Kindle Fire. But Amazon had good reason to skimp on storage: It aimed to keep costs down, for one, and it also made a heavy emphasis on the wonders of the cloud. Which side will consumers take? We won't have to wait long to find out.

The Video Concern

As with the Kindle Fire, media plays a big role in the mission of the Nook Tablet. Barnes & Noble is loudly singing the praises of its video parters Hulu Plus and Netflix, not to mention music services like Pandora and games like Angry Birds. But Hulu Plus and and Netflix are streaming services, which means that users are are on their own if they want to watch videos while not connected to the Internet. Which service will step in to fill this void? Barnes & Noble isn't saying quite yet.

The Barnes & Noble Advantage: Brick and Mortar

With the announcement of the Nook Tablet came another interesting development: Barnes & Noble is introducing the Nook Digital Shop, a section of its stores dedicated solely to its digital product portfolio. This gives Barnes & Noble a significant strategic advantage over Amazon, which relies on third-party retailers to get its products in consumers hands. In all, the Nook Digital Shop will likely make the Nook user experience feel similar to that of Apple's products, which are supported via Apple's own physical stores. This is something consumers will without a doubt notice and respond to.

Topic: Amazon

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14 comments
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  • Perfect for those who don't travel...

    Barnes & Noble refuse to sell me a Nook, because I live in Australia. Now they are teaming with streaming video providers - again, US only.
    So long as Amazon wants a world market, and the Nook stays with the US market, the overall winner will be Amazon. No matter how mediocre the Kindle, a larger audience equals more sales.
    alan_r_cam
    • RE: The Nook Tablet is a $249 swipe at Amazon's Kindle Fire (first impressions)

      @alan_r_cam Fantastic point! Especially with the "cloud" there is no reason (other than lack of supply chain planning and capabilities) not to go global with each of these products.
      PeterZ1959
  • RE: The Nook Tablet is a $249 swipe at Amazon's Kindle Fire (first impressions)

    Do either of these tablets offer internet browsing and email ?

    Thank you,
    Robert
    ArtieWhite
    • RE: The Nook Tablet is a $249 swipe at Amazon's Kindle Fire (first impressions)

      @ArtieWhite: Internet yes (Google Amazon Silk) but I don't think either have an e-mail app. You need to use webmail for that.
      bradavon
    • RE: The Nook Tablet is a $249 swipe at Amazon's Kindle Fire (first impressions)

      @ArtieWhite They both promise an email app built in. The Nook Color already does. Source: Nook Color Owner, Kindle Fire press conference and Kindle Fire page on amazon.com.
      necessaryevil
  • RE: The Nook Tablet is a $249 swipe at Amazon's Kindle Fire (first impressions)

    I see $50 as insignificant for making a decision. I have stayed away from the I-Pad because of a closed ecosystem and no memory expansion. The Kindle offers me the ability to place close-hold information on a SD card,plus USB, that's the clincher and a dual core CPU.
    oskar401
    • RE: The Nook Tablet is a $249 swipe at Amazon's Kindle Fire (first impressions)

      @oskar401
      Didn't you mean the NOOK? The Kindle devices lack an expansion card slot, unlike Barnes & Noble's various offerings. Amazon stopped offering expansion slots a while ago - just one of the reasons I gave my Kindle 3 to my Mom and bought myself a Nook Touch this past Summer, and also why I'd opt for the Nook Tablet over a Kindle Fire, even though I have a Prime account.

      That said, I ultimately opted for an 11" MacBook Air over any tablet. I already have an iPhone 4 and the Nook Touch, so the MBA seemed to add more overall functionality, albeit for a higher price. If I ever do add a tablet to my gadget collection, it would need to have at least a 10" screen.
      bengalcatlover
  • RE: The Nook Tablet is a $249 swipe at Amazon's Kindle Fire (first impressions)

    Nowhere in this entire article do you mention the Nook Tablet runs Android 3.2, when the Kindle Fire will run Android 2.1 or 2.2 (I cannot find out conclusively).

    That's a big plus in favour of the Nook Tablet. The Kindle Fire isn't even running Android 2.3, despite the fact it came out a year ago.
    bradavon
    • RE: The Nook Tablet is a $249 swipe at Amazon's Kindle Fire (first impressions)

      @bradavon How is it that the Kindle Fire came out a year ago when it has not even been released yet?
      kloveloc@...
    • RE: The Nook Tablet is a $249 swipe at Amazon's Kindle Fire (first impressions)

      @bradavon
      Nook Tablet will run 2.3 Gingerbread. It was on other sites. Kindle Fire is supposedly running 2.3. However, both are so heavily skinned that the point is rather moot. I have a feeling that ICS will be out of the question unless both can make their skinned ICS versions. I think most people, will leave it as is and the few of us will root the device. Luckily there is a root that runs from the SD card on the Nook, so you don't have to root the original Nook (and thus void your warranty), but if you want to run other apps not found Nook Store, then you still have a way without rooting your Nook. For my likely "other app" wil be Kindle app. I read about a book per week and I have found Kindle books to be anywhere from $0 to $1 cheaper than Nook books.
      ManoaHI
  • RE: The Nook Tablet is a $249 swipe at Amazon's Kindle Fire (first impressions)

    Nook Tablet is $224 if sign up for Barnes & Noble membership. E-Ink Nook Simpletouch at $99 (without ads) has twice the battery life of Kindle Touch, faster page turns than Kindle Touch, 80% less flashing
    on page turns than Kindle touch, and microSD card slot to expand capacity that neither Kindle has.
    Nook Tablet is clearly the superior device over Kindle Fire. Not just 11.5 hours battery life but 9 hours of video playback time - that's vs. 8 hours for reading and 7.5 hours of video playback on Kindle Fire (I think that's a typo on Kindle specs and it'll last 4-6 hours with video - how could video playback be that close to reading in battery utilization?)
    1 GB RAM Vs. 512 MB RAM of Kindle Fire, 16 GB content capacity plus 32 GB via microSD card vs. 8 GB capacity of Kindle Fire with no expansion slot. Fully laminated HD screen for reduced glare vs. no lamination of Kindle Fire. Bulit-in and optimized Netflix and Hulu plus with millions of movies/shows vs. 100K movies/shows of Amazon store. Nook Tablet has built-in mic for Skype voice conferencing and dictations to speech recognition software. Nook already has Cloud as all eBooks in your online library are stored there as well as downloaded to your device. For streaming movies and shows it has Netflix and Hulu Clouds. Twice better device - in both technical specifications and content offering.
    eco733
    • RE: The Nook Tablet is a $249 swipe at Amazon's Kindle Fire (first impressions)

      @eco733 Funny, I don't find nook to be the "clearly superior" device. It may have their cloud already, but does it have all your music, videos, and games in that cloud because the kindle does. And the kindle does come with an anti-reflective surface which you insinuated it did not. The movies and tv shows are free, are they free on netflix and hulu plus, I believe not. Does it have a lending library for free best sellers? Again, no. All content must be purchased. In addition, you do not need to be connected to the internet to watch the tv and movies on the kindle, but you do need to be if you want to stream them from netflix or hulu. So I would completely disagree that the nook is a twice better device. In addition, you are showing the lower price that comes only with a membership, while the fire is $199 for all.
      kloveloc@...
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