November 7, 2011

Which new tablet is better for watching movies?


Barnes & Noble is debuting its new Nook Color tablet today. At least that’s what tech reporters are saying about the Monday meeting with the media that B&N has scheduled. With the Kindle Fire ready to ship on November 15th, B&N has to move quickly if they want to hang on to the ground they gained with the current iteration of the Nook Color. But what can the new Nook tablet offer that the Fire doesn’t already promise? Or, as is the case with Amazon’s color tablet too, how is it not going to end up just a lesser iPad? That’s the $200 question right now for tech analysts.

The consensus belief is that B&N will try to compete with Amazon at its own game: price. Matt Hamblen of ComputerWorld writes:

Three analysts agreed that Barnes & Noble won’t want to be beaten by on price, since it already sells a 7-in. Nook Color for $249 that was first announced Nov. 19, 2010, and was updated to Android 2.2 in April. The 7-in. Kindle Fire tablet, announced Sept. 28, will be available Nov. 15, eight days after the Barnes & Noble event.

This speculation goes on to include the black & white e-ink Nook as well, which could also do with a pricing downgrade. Price might not be enough to save the Nook, and thus this leads to yet more speculation.

Again, Hamblen writes:

The most far-reaching idea has Barnes & Noble announcing a new model of the Nook Color that runs a quad-core processor, up from the single-core and dual-core processor from various tablet makers.

Rob Enderle, an analyst at Enderle Group, said Nvidia’s quad-core chip, code-named Kal-El, could be incorporated into the next Nook Color, giving it unmatched speed for browsing and playing Flash content. “If it’s Kal-El, it could be really interesting,” Enderle said.

From all reports the cleverly named Kal-El lives up to its “super” billing, but whether or not B&N is launching a tablet that will compete on processing horsepower has yet to be seen. It would be an ironic development in the tablet wars because essentially the Nook would be instantly better at doing all the things that the Fire is touted for. Streaming video, for instance. This is ironic of course because the Nook will have nothing like Amazon’s burgeoning streaming video content, which is now free to its Prime members.

In a related article eWeek article Nicholas Kolakowski writes about exactly this subject:

The Nook also lacks in comparison with the Kindle Fire in other ways. Amazon offers a wide variety of streaming content direct from its Website, while Nook users need to head to Websites like YouTube if they want to seek out video. That streamlined pipeline between Amazon’s cloud and the Kindle Fire is a sizable advantage that Amazon has already worked feverishly to exploit in its advertising and promotional materials for the tablet, and will almost certainly become a sizable disadvantage for the color Nook in a head-to-head comparison between the devices.

The Kindle Fire also leverages Amazon’s EC2 cloud for a faster Web-browser experience, undercutting the Nook’s Web browser as a selling point.

Going unnamed in all this is the iPad (Kolakowski does discuss it later in his article), which both companies all but admit as being of a higher quality if somewhat greater price point. A price point that Apple could of course lower in the foreseeable future. Basically the new Nook Color has a lot to compete with and has a short season to do so. B&N can’t afford to lose any tablet ground this holiday season and not having a service to stream Star Trek episodes or the next Super Man movie might lead to just that. Kal-El or not.

By way of brief postscript: It’s worth noting that nowhere in this article was the word “book” used. Nor was it used in the ComputerWorld article and just once was the ebook mentioned in the eWeek piece.

Paul Oliver is the marketing manager of Melville House. Previously he was co-owner of Wolfgang Books in Philadelphia.