There were few things about the Kindle Fire’s release that sparked more attention than the Carrousel home screen. This approach set the Kindle Fire apart from other Android tablets by creating a simpler, more intuitive user experience. Naturally that, alongside Amazon’s locking users into their ecosystem, drew fire from critics who prefer a more configurable, personalizable interface and a device that can tap into Google’s large app selection. The real problem it caused, however, was less bound to a particular view of how the Android experience should be presented and more in its complete lack of user controls.
For the most part, this boiled down to privacy. The Kindle Fire, when it was released, could not reasonably be considered a family-friendly device. In many cases it couldn’t even be comfortably used as a multi-user device. The Carrousel displayed everything that was accessed, in the order it was accessed, along with every piece of media attached to the user’s account. It’s hard enough to overlook the potential for embarrassment in that arrangement among adults, but this made it more or less impossible for parents to use their Kindle Fire while moderating the content that children might be exposed to.
This has since been fixed, of course. The Carrousel offers deletion, parents are able to control more aspects of their child’s access (with even more coming soon thanks to Kindle FreeTime), and privacy is restored. Barnes & Noble, possibly in response to precisely this debacle, has come up with what is probably an even better set of user-profile features than the Kindle Fire HD now offers or can be expected to offer with the release of Kindle FreeTime.
The details are understandably vague at this point. The Nook HD is not out until November 1st and some of the software is clearly still being fine-tuned, making over-promising a real possibility if they aren’t careful. Still, what we know now is enough to declare this a highly family-friendly feature.
Each Nook HD owner will be able to create up to six Nook Profiles. These will be theoretically autonomous, including their accessible content. Each profile will have its own private library, though clearly the owner will have override control to a large extent that should allow simple sharing between these. In addition to personalized content collections, users will be able to tailor all personalization options independently. The Nook Tablet doesn’t offer much in the way of visual customization, but it doesn’t offer as little as the Kindle Fire either so this could be quite handy.
This makes the situation for parents a bit better as well. Barnes & Noble is pushing the children’s eBook market fairly hard still and the Nook HD is no exception. Using Nook Profiles, parents will be able to separate their kids’ books from the main library so that they won’t have to worry about them while looking through more adult-friendly content. The parental controls will still apply to a child’s profile, of course, but should be able to be bound specifically to that profile. If you password protect your personal profile, this means that it’s reasonable to use the Nook HD normally without entering in a PIN constantly.
The Kindle Fire HD now has some great parental control options, soon including a finer level of control than anything offered by the competition right now if the FreeTime claims are to be believed, but this is a case where the Nook HD is noticeably superior. Barnes & Noble really wants the family-oriented customers and it shows.