November is shaping up as a big month for tablet releases. Amazon will be releasing its highly touted Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble its Nook Tablet which the company unveiled yesterday. Both companies are taking pre-orders for the respective tablets slated to be available later this month.
Much like the Kindle Fire there were plenty of leaks leading up to the official unveiling of the Nook Tablet. At the launch event, Barnes & Noble dropped the price of its Nook Color eReader to $199 and moved the Nook Tablet into the Color’s former $249 price.
The pricing issue is important. The industry is still waiting to see if undercutting the basic iPad price by half or more will generate Apple’s first legitimate tablet competitor. Amazon is off to a good start, reportedly selling over 250,000 units in pre-order sales the first week the Kindle Fire was available.
At $199, the Kindle Fire is cheaper than the Nook Tablet, although the latter has twice the memory (1 GB vs 512K MB) and storage (16GB vs 8GB). The Nook Tablet also has an edge with its inclusion of a MicroSD slot for additional storage.
While teardown analysis reports show Apple making a profit of a few hundred dollars on each iPad 2 (though that figure excludes marketing and development costs), analysts say Amazon and Barnes & Noble will be more dependent on ecommerce (selling books, music, videos, games and apps) to see a profit from their tablets.
“Amazon and even Barnes & Noble can afford to lose a little money on the hardware if they sell enough books and other things,” said Endpoint Technologies Associates analyst Roger Kay. “For now it’s clear that Apple is the only one making real money on the device itself.
The early reaction to the Nook Tablet has been mixed, although it is beginning to reflect a growing enthusisam for the 7-inch form factor.
Engadget noted that the Nook Tablet looks a lot like the earlier Nook Color, though a bit lighter in weight. “Barnes & Noble clearly took an ‘if it ain't broke’ approach here... It really is a nice form factor, easy to hold in a single hand for reading and watching video,” said Engadget. “The company also promises that a case with a built-in stand is coming, so you can take full advantage of that wide screen when watching longer videos on Netflix or Hulu Plus.”
In a brief time it had to review the Nook at the launch event, Engadget said “the screen looked quite nice” watching video. But the reviewers said they need to spend more reviewing the Nook to see if it’s worth the $50 premium over the Kindle Fire.
A Wired reviewer was also impressed that the Nook Tablet is both lighter than the Color and both the Kindle Fire and iPad. Of course the iPad has a larger 10-inch display versus the 7-inch display of the other devices.
The Wired review notes the Nook Tablet’s 7-inch form factor is ideal for many games. “Playing a game like Angry Birds on a smartphone or iPod touch is an awkward dance of zooming and squinting. And on an iPad, it can be awkward to hold such a large device with one hand while making gestures to slingshot birds with the other. But on a 7-inch tablet with proper hardware inside, gaming feels just right.”
Wired concludes that the Nook Tablet is “a serious, high-performing device for kids too young to sport a smartphone or iPad, and who don’t plow through enough books to warrant a Nook Simple Touch or plain-vanilla Kindle, but who could benefit from an inexpensive, highly mobile device that can do a little bit of everything.”