The Nook Color was not the first color eReader by any stretch of the imagination, for all it beat out the Kindles to that point. Even if you exclude all of the PDAs, Blackberrys, and smartphone types of devices in general that gave the Microsoft LIT format a space to thrive in, there were others that came before. Credit where credit is due, however, B&N created the first reading tablet that was worth owning. Its value might just not come as much from the pure quality of reading experience as it could need to to remain competitive as an eReader.
Analysts have regularly indicated that the appeal of the Nook Color, for the average consumer, is in its ability to access magazines and casual games along the lines of the ever popular Angry Birds series. The portability, full color display, and Android based operating system make it great for short periods of interaction and immersion, even if the screen is less than ideal for extended reading. Now, with the release of the Kindle Fire, there is reason for Barnes & Noble to be concerned over their device’s future.
What it comes down to is a practically point by point feature trumping on Amazon’s part, plus a superior media distribution base to draw on in the areas where a tablet is most useful. The points of comparison stand out a little bit when you consider the Nook Color’s superiorities over the Kindle 3 (Kindle Keyboard).
|Kindle Keyboard||Nook Color||Kindle Fire|
|Display||6″ Monochrome E INK||7″ Color LCD||7″ Color LCD|
|Interface||Keyboard & Directional Controls||Capacitive Multitouch||IR Multitouch|
|Dimensions||7.5″ x 4.8″ x 0.34″||8.1″ x 5.0″ x .48″||7.5″ x 4.7″ x 0.45″|
|Weight||8.5 Ounces||15.8 Ounces||14.6 Ounces|
|Battery Life||2 Months||8 Hours||8 Hours|
|Storage||4GB Internal||8GB Internal, Expandable Memory Slot||8GB Internal, Amazon Cloud Storage|
|Browsing Capabilities||Basic HTML Experimental||Full Browser w/ Flash Support||Silk Browser w/ Flash Support|
|Price||$99 – $139||$249||$199|
That comparison is based on what features Barnes & Noble has chosen thus far to highlight on the device specs section of the Nook Color sales page, in an effort to present things fairly. I’m ignoring the majority of software concerns, especially in terms of file type compatibility, since apps are theoretically able to make up for most any deficiency. These would still, however, favor the new Kindle. While the Nook Color is the only one of these with an expandable memory slot, which would seem incredibly useful to many users, this has proven a mixed blessing for the company since it provides people with a simple and effective way to bypass the Nook’s proprietary Android build.
Basically it appears that with the Kindle Fire Amazon has looked at what the competition was doing and improved on it. No surprise, that’s what competing products are supposed to do. They’ve essentially got a slightly smaller, slightly lighter 7″ tablet that they’re not hooked on the idea of presenting as an eReader. Overall the technology behind the Kindle Fire is newer and more powerful in every way that matters and still comes in at a lower price for the end user. The only real question now is what B&N does with this information.
We can take as a given that Barnes & Noble is not in a position to provide the same sort of robust media library that Amazon is bringing to customers. Even if they were to start pulling in video streaming deals and other things along those lines to fill in the gaps, the time factor would be a problem. What they can do is work to get Netflix, Hulu, or any number of other streaming services on-board as partners. With Amazon poised to make a move into that market in a larger way than they have so far, it shouldn’t be too difficult. It would mean giving up on potential media sales revenue, but it also eliminates the need to build up the infrastructure to support that media. We know that rooted Nook Colors are able to access services like Netflix already, so it would only make sense to cash in on it given how easily root-able these devices have proven to be.
There is also the rumor of a new Nook Color that will bring hardware upgrades. Now, this is pretty flimsy in spite of having seen posts declaring it would be released “any day now” since early September, but it could make a big difference to their presence in the device market. While a price drop in the current Nook Color is a given, having a newer more powerful model available would work well whether it was a more expensive option or as an outright replacement. In the former scenario it would highlight the fact of the low price point while providing options. In the latter, there is room to hope that in some way the Kindle Fire will be inferior. If the hardware option is going to make a difference, however, it needs to happen soon. Once people start getting their hands on the Kindle Fire, barring major issues with them, the momentum is likely to increase leading into the holiday season.
What we do know is that the Nook line as a whole is pretty much the only part of Barnes & Noble that is growing right now. They need to keep things going. As a result, you can be sure that something is on the horizon to keep the situation competitive. Tablet PCs just tend to be the most useful when it comes to things that aren’t reading, so it might take a bit of a shift for B&N to really make their presence known now that there are comparably priced options available. Whether or not they manage remains to be seen, but hopes are high. While the Nook Color has not been my favorite device personally, it did provide us with one of the first reasonably priced yet fully functional tablets almost by mistake (rooting is essential in a way that many are hoping will not be the case with the Kindle Fire). It would be a shame to seem them fall aside now.