Barnes & Noble just finished their big reveal of the new Nook lineup. The press conference seemed like a lot of poking at Amazon, which is fun to see. The e-ink Nook Simple Touch is getting dropped to $99, which brings it inline with the Kindle Touch. There are a few differences, though – the Nook doesn’t support audiobooks or text-to-speech, but it also doesn’t come loaded with “special offers” at that price. The Kindle costs $40 more to nuke the ads.
Of course, the big story is the new Nook Tablet. Surprisingly, they aren’t putting the Nook Color out to pasture; it becomes their entry-level color device instead. The Nook Tablet gets twice the RAM and twice the storage of the Kindle Fire, as well as an expansion slot. Those are the most obvious differences in the hardware. The screen is supposed to be slightly better, and the CPU is 20% faster, but those differences are a bit harder to notice I’m betting.
The ecosystem is one of the deciding factors for these semi-mobile devices, and that’s going to be interesting to see work out over the coming months. Now that both retailers are going to have similar devices on the market simultaneously, the head-to-head competition will heat up more than it has in the past. When there was no color or touch Kindle, it was easy to dismiss the competition as being too dissimilar to really count.
Ecosystems…Amazon has their Prime program, which gets them an annual subscription fee and which gives the customer a variety of benefits. There are streaming videos from TV and movies, as well as free two-day shipping of many tangible products from the Amazon behemoth. Most recently, they added a free book “loan” per month (based on the explanation at Good E-Reader, it sounds more like they’ve paid for the books and are giving them away to entice more brand loyalty). Amazon also has their own Android app store, as well as the books they’re known for and their Audible book subsidiary.
Meanwhile, back at Barnes & Noble, they are touting the relative openness of the Nook Tablet in contrast to the curated experience at Amazon. You’ll be able to stream Netflix videos and Pandora music, as well as many other Android apps from the Nook app store. The Nook Color has become well known for being easily rootable; there’s no reason to predict the Tablet will be harder to root as B&N doesn’t try to lock people in as much as Amazon does.
So, the Fire gets you one location with all your media paid for annually and bit-by-bit. Nook gets you several services with their own payment systems and subscriptions, but with more storage and speed for $50 more money upfront. Which model becomes the big winner will be hard to predict, but it sure makes this holiday shopping season more entertaining to watch.