Home The New Nook Aims at Amazon’s Kindle Fire, But the iPad is Still Safe

The New Nook Aims at Amazon’s Kindle Fire, But the iPad is Still Safe

Barnes and Noble today unveiled their answer to Amazon’s forthcoming Kindle Fire. The Nook Tablet is a full-color, 7-inch touchscreen media tablet that has much in common with the Kindle Fire. Both devices start shipping in just over a week.

Whereas Amazon launched a completely new product when it revealed the Fire, Barnes and Noble is really just upgrading its existing Nook Color and finally adding the word “tablet” to its name. In the launch presentation, CEO William Lynch Jr could hardly have made it more obvious who the company is gunning for here. He made several direct references to Amazon and the Kindle Fire, which he unsurprisingly dismissed as an inferior product.

How the Nook Tablet and Kindle Fire Compare

The two color tablets have a lot in common, but there are a few key distinctions that may make all the difference to consumers. They’re roughly the same size, connect to WiFi (no 3G for either), and run modified, proprietary versions of Android with only limited app store access.

The Nook Tablet has more storage and double the RAM than the Kindle Fire, but at $249, costs fifty bucks more than Amazon’s tablet. Previously-leaked rumors of a 1.2 GHz processor turned out to be false, as it appears to have a 1 GHz dual core CPU, much like the Kindle Fire. 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.

Whereas the Kindle Fire puts great emphasis on cloud storage of content and has a cloud-accelerated browser, the Nook Tablet doesn’t want users to rely on the cloud for media content storage. In their presentation, the company said that was because the cloud is unreliable. While a WiFi-only device will have a hard time staying connected indefinitely, we can’t help but think Barnes and Noble might feel differently if they had their own equivalent of Amazon Web Services.

Either way, the Nook Tablet comes with 16 GB of storage and there’s room to expand on that with an SD card. Barnes and Noble is offering cloud storage to those that want it, but the device is not hinged on it.

When it ships on November 15, the Kindle Fire will have a few slight advantages over the new Nook Tablet, the first one being its price. Others include a more extensive Android app marketplace, a speedy, cloud-accelerated Web browser and Amazon Prime membership benefits like streaming video and Kindle book lending.

At the same time, one could argue, as Barnes and Noble has, that the Kindle Fire is tied a little too closely to Amazon’s own content offerings. Whereas Fire owners get a free month of access to Amazon’s growing video library, Nook Tablet owners will have Netflix and Hulu Plus, something Amazon customers will have to wait for.

Impact on the Tablet Market and User Adoption

One name not mentioned by Lynch in Barnes and Noble’s launch presentation was Apple. In no way is the Nook Tablet a direct competitor to the iPad, nor is being positioned as such. This is for the same reasons that the Kindle Fire is not a threat to the iPad: it’s more a media consumption device than a full-blown tablet computer with cameras, accelerometer and hundreds of thousands of apps.

Still, this new breed of smaller, Android-flavored media tablets is sure to have a significant impact on the tablet market at large. Like the Kindle Fire, the Nook Tablet’s “killer feature” is its price point.

The iPad will continue to sell well and dominate the tablet space for at least a few more years. But when people start getting serious about holiday shopping in a few weeks, many will be drawn to the tablet that boasts a price tag half the size of the iPad’s, even if it’s less functional than Apple’s prized device. For many, dropping $500 on a tablet computer is simply not feasible. Both Amazon and Barnes and Noble stand to capture quite a few of those consumers, thanks to their cheaper offerings.

If these media tablets do well, they may help competitively drive down the price of Apple’s iPad, the third of iteration of which is expected to launch early next year.

Either way, the availability of two relatively affordable tablet devices from two well-known consumer brands is sure to help fuel the growth of the tablet market overall. About 11% of American consumers currently own tablets, according to recent studies released separately by both Pew and Forrester, the latter of which expects to see 80 million U.S. tablet owners by 2015. The devices have already shown huge year-over-year growth thanks to the popularity of the iPad. We should expect to see that growth continue well into 2012 and beyond.

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