Barnes and Noble Nook looks to Quell Amazon’s Fire

by Matt Klassen on November 8, 2011

It looks like competition in the newly formed affordable tablet niche market is growing, and just in time for Christmas too. With the Kindle Fire burning up Amazon’s bottom line it looks like the e-commerce giant will soon be feeling the heat from other sources, particularly its media rival Barnes and Noble.

When Amazon unveiled the Kindle Fire many cast an uncertain glance towards B&N, quietly wondering how America’s oldest print media retailer would respond to the formation of an e-reader/tablet hybrid device, and now it looks like B&N has responded in kind, unveiling its own Nook tablet.

But in a tablet market dominated by the iPad, will there be any room left for the likes of the Kindle Fire or the Nook tablet? Will people want an affordable tablet, even if it lacks the full suite of features found on the significantly more expensive iPad or the numerous less popular Android options?

Truly if there’s one thing that the epic collapse of HP’s Touchpad showed us it’s that people want affordable tablet alternatives…of course the Touchpad was a fully functional iPad alternative with a suite of features head and shoulders above anything you’ll find on the either the Kindle Fire or the Nook tablet.

That said, it looks like Amazon and B&N are creating a brand new niche within the tablet market itself, offering affordable e-reader/tablet hybrids with a relatively bare bones list of features. But the question remains, are people interested in this sort of tablet?

When Amazon unveiled the Kindle Fire I addressed this very question, stating that I can envision the Fire finding its niche as people’s second tablet, especially those looking for a more than just an e-reader to take travelling. While clearly the iPad does some things well, it truly seems like the Fire picks up the slack, giving users an e-commerce and e-reader platform in a modestly equipped Wi-Fi enabled tablet.

So will B&N’s new Nook tablet be able to fill the same void? On paper both devices seem relatively on par, both featuring 7-inch touchscreens, 1GHz dual-core Texas Instruments CPUs, both claim 8 hours of battery life, and both run custom versions of Android. As I mentioned in relation to the Fire, neither device offers a camera, Bluetooth, or 3G connectivity—although both are Wi-Fi enabled.

The difference that has me scratching my head is cost, as B&N has priced the Nook tablet ($249) a full $50 more than the Kindle Fire ($199). B&N isn’t worried though, as CEO William Lynch said, “This is the best media tablet hands-down on the market. We’ve done some things to optimize performance that just aren’t available on the Kindle Fire.”

Truth be told, the Nook tablet does offer some appealing extra features, most notably 16GB of built-in storage (twice that of the Kindle Fire), a supposed better viewing angle, a microSD expansion slot (the Fire has none) and 1GB of RAM (again twice that of the Fire), which helps with multi-tasking, but whether any of this is worth the extra $50 remains to be seen. Further, partnerships with Zulu and Netflix guarantees access to quality content.

So which one is better? It’s a tough question, one that really depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a versatile platform that gives you access to a veritable media empire that contains e-books, streaming video, and the world’s most popular e-commerce site I would say the Kindle Fire is the clear choice. If you’re looking for a competent and speedy e-reader/tablet hybrid that offers better multitasking and don’t mind the added price, the Nook is clearly for you.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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