Barnes & Noble took it straight to Amazon when it recently announced the Nook Tablet. It was pointed out time and again at the launch event how the Nook Tablet has better hardware components than the Kindle Fire. Amazon responded by shipping the Kindle Fire ahead of schedule, and B&N has retaliated in kind as the Nook Tablet is already appearing in B&N stores.
Early shipments are rare in the consumer electronic space, as it is more common to see delays in getting products into consumer's hands. It seems the cheap tablet war has left the podium and is now in the trenches, with Kindle Fires and Nook Tablets shipping ahead of schedule.
The Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet are similar in form and function, with a $50 price difference separating the two. B&N is quick to point out the hardware differences that make the Nook Tablet worth the extra price, but that may be a dangerous gambit as most mainstream consumers don't care about the technical stuff. The cheaper price and familiar Kindle brand may give Amazon a leg up in the cheap tablet war.
It will bear watching how the market reacts to the Nook Tablet once widely available. It is reported Amazon has already sold a million Kindle Fire tablets prior to shipping, and that is a significant start in the race against the Nook Tablet. B&N is not disclosing Nook Tablet sales figures so far.