In New York today, Barnes and Noble announced the latest devices in the e-Book / tablet wars, aggressively taking on Amazon with the latest changes in their Nook lineup.
The most headline-grabbing device is the Nook Tablet, a 7 inch tablet computer. It is similar to Apple's iPad in being a touchscreen device centered around software programs called apps. However, while it is smaller and has less functionality than the iPad, it also retails at half the price of the bottom-end iPad, $249 versus $499.
The Nook Tablet's main competitor is Amazon's Kindle Fire, a $199 device that, like the newly announced Nook, goes on sale next week.
While the Nook Tablet is more expensive than the Kindle Fire, Barnes and Noble claims that the price difference between the Nook Tablet and the Kindle Fire is justified by the device's specifications.
When stacked up against the Fire, the Tablet offers double the RAM (1GB vs 500MB), which potentially means that, among other things, it processes graphics faster; double the media storage (16GB, expandable to 48GB vs 8GB), allowing users to store more movies, music, books and more on the device; and, Barnes and Noble claims, a better display that can be viewed from a wider angle than that of the Fire.
Like Amazon's device, it connects to the internet only via WiFi, offers internet browsing and email functionality, and supports thousands of apps such as Pandora and Angry Birds, that can be purchased on the device. Both companies offer large catalogues of e-books available for purchase.
Movie/TV streaming services Netflix and Hulu Plus come preloaded on Nook Tablet. The Nook Tablet also has a unique function called "Read and Record", where people can record themselves reading a book to accompany the on-screen text. This is aimed primarily at parents and grandparents of young children.
Perhaps its most conspicuous selling point over that of Amazon, however, is the fact that Barnes and Noble offers free wifi and free lifetime support for the devices inside of the majority of its 705 North American stores.
While the Kindle Fire offers many functions that the Nook Tablet does not, as an online-only company, Amazon has no way of offering similar in-person support for its devices.
At the event today, changes were also announced to the existing line up of Nook e-readers.
The Nook Color, one of Barnes and Noble's bestselling devices, has been updated with a better display, social reading functionality and new apps. The price of this device has been dropped from $249 to $199.
Finally, the Nook Simple Touch, a basic e-reader that uses E-Ink technology, now has an improved battery life and crisper text. At $99, it is $20 more than the cheapest Kindle, however that device comes with advertising pre-installed, whereas the Nook is ad-free.
Earlier this year, according to a report by Bloomberg, Amazon was dominating e-reader sales, with a market share of 67%, followed by the Nook at 22%.
As the race to become the essential tech-based holiday gift hots up, It remains to be seen if these new announcements will resonate with consumers enough to shift the balance away from the Seattle-based internet retailer.
Will you buy one? Let us know in the comments!
At $249, the Nook Tablet takes a serious swipe at the iPad, whose base model is priced twice as high at $499. The Kindle Fire, meanwhile, starts at $199 but lacks some of the features that the Nook offers.
Nook Tablet users should have an easier time storing content on their device than Kindle Fire users. The new Nook offers a 1GHZ dual-core processor, 1GB RAM, 16GB storage and an SD expansion slot that allows for up to 32GB more storage. Meanwhile, the Kindle Fire comes with roughly half the memory and storage space as the Nook Tablet, and it doesn't offer an SD slot. Though both companies offer their own cloud storage options, the Nook's roomier hard drive will let users save more content on the device itself. "With a faster dual-core CPU and double the RAM of the Nook Color, the Nook Tablet was noticeably zippier than its ancestor [...] Games and Netflix videos launched quickly during brief demos at the Barnes & Noble event," CNET wrote soon after the device was announced on Monday.
The Nook tablet offers a seven-inch (1,024x600 pixel) ISP display, boasting 1,080p video playback. The slim device weighs just 14.1 ounces, nearly half an ounce lighter than the Kindle Fire.
Just like the Kindle Fire, the Nook Tablet is a WiFi-only device. Meanwhile, Apple's iPad offers 3G connectivity, but you've got to shell out extra for such a feature. Still, Nook Tablet users will be able to take advantage of WiFi hotspots to browse the Internet, check email and download app. Writes Boy Genius Report, "Barnes & Noble said the device will have free access to AT&T and Barnes & Noble Wi-Fi hotspots."
Just like the Kindle Fire, the Nook Tablet doesn't have any webcams, whereas the iPad 2 is packing a pair of them, as do many fully-stocked (and higher priced) Android tablets. However, the Nook tablet does support an integrated microphone and lets users record while reading to create their own "books on tape."
Barnes & Noble's new tablet will give users access to the company's enormous content library, which includes books, magazines, newspapers, comic books and more. "With a library said to be at 2 million titles and counting, Barnes & Noble's catalog is at or near the top of e-book seller heap," writes CNET. Barnes & Noble has also improved and expanded its Nook Newsstand for magazines and periodicals. "Overall, the company has more than 250 periodicals on the Nook platform, many with interactive features," writes the USA Today.
The Nook Tablets' battery will give the users an impressive 11.5 hours of reading time and about 9 hours of video playback time, per a press release posted by Engadget. "According to Barnes and Noble's presentation and marketing, the Nook Tablet's battery will last a few hours more than the Kindle Fire, but we have yet to see that claim tested in the real world," notes ReadWriteWeb.
Like the Kindle Fire, the Nook Tablet is powered by a customized version of Android 2.3 (aka Gingerbread). Barnes & Noble is also offering a selection of Android apps that have been reformatted specifically for its new tablet, something Amazon has also done for the Fire tablet. The device comes preloaded with popular apps from Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pandora TV.com and more. Gaming enthusiasts can download top titles like Angry Birds Rio and Seasons, plus numerous offerings just for kids. According to Barnes & Noble's press release (via Engadget) thousands more apps will be available for the Nook Tablet by the holiday season. CNET points out that "Amazon's list of third-party Fire apps remains undisclosed," writes CNET.
Users can also take advantage of experts available at Barnes & Noble locations. If you want to get your Nook Tablet serviced, or if you simply have questions about the Nook, you'll (ideally) have only to walk into your neighborhood Barnes & Noble store and talk to a Nook specialist stationed there (a la Apple's in-store Genius Bar.)
The new Nook hits retail stores on November 17, just after the Kindle Fire's November 15 release date. Available for preorder now, the Nook Tablet begins shipping on November 15, ReadWriteWeb reports.
Writes the New York Times: "Barnes & Noble executives emphasized that its devices have no ads that interrupt the reading experience. That provides an advantage over other e-readers and tablets that do have advertising, said Michael Norris, a senior analyst with Simba Information," who said that research has shown "ads are considered annoying, irritating and obtrusive."