To give an equivalent competition to Amazon.com’s forthcoming Kindle Fire tablet, Barnes & Nobles has recently unveiled its new 7-inch slate called Nook Tablet. It’s due Nov. 17 or right around the time that Kindle Fire is expected to reach consumers.
Barnes & Noble begins taking pre-orders. Nook Tablet will cost $249, $50 higher than the $199 sweet spot that Amazon is charging for Fire. Nook Tablet looks a lot like the Nook Color “reader tablet” that came before it and that Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch says has sold in the “millions.’ Nook Color stays in the lineup: Barnes & Noble is dropping the price on it from $249 to $199.
The addition of high definition streaming is what mostly distinguishes Nook Tablet from its predecessor. “What we set out to do here was create the best portable 7-inch media tablet. It is an evolution of Nook Color and a revolution in the 7-inch media category,” Lynch says.
Barnes & Noble spent what it says is a ton of money developing a rich, highly readable display with a steep viewing angle and minimal glare. Its 1024 by 600 screen resolution matches the resolution of Kindle Fire.
Nook Tablet weighs 14.1 ounces or about 0.5 ounces lighter than Fire. It can be stuffed into a coat pocket. Inside is a 1GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, and 16 GB of internal storage. That’s double the amount of internal storage offered by its Amazon rival, plus you can expand Nook Tablet’s memory via a micro SD memory card slot. Of course, Amazon is stressing “cloud” storage with Fire, and the ability to back up everything you buy through Amazon online, part of an integrated end-to-end solution.
To help you fly through the contents on the new Nook, you can tap the screen to summon a slider that makes it to jump to any page. Across the home screen, you get one-click access to books, newsstand, video, music and apps. On the content side, Lynch says Barnes & Noble will offer more of the top 100 magazines for subscription and download than any other newsstand service. Overall, the company has more than 250 periodicals on the Nook platform, many with interactive features. “We sell more (physical) magazines in our bookstores than virtually any other retailer—us and Walmart are the number one and number two seller. We’ve had longstanding relationships with these guys for years. Because of the success of the Nook Color they want in on this.”
As with Fire, Nook Tablet is a Wi-Fi only device — there is no 3G cellular connectivity for browsing or purchasing a book when you don’t have Wi-Fi. Barnes & Noble has a deal with AT&T to provide free Wi-Fi access at hotspots in its own stores, as well as in McDonald’s, Starbucks and other locales.
Barnes & Noble says the battery will last long enough to let you read a book for 11 ½ hours or spend 9 hours watching movies. Neither Fire nor Nook Tablet have cameras, unlike the iPad 2. But while Barnes & Noble has aimed its competitive fire at Fire, Lynch doesn’t view the iPad as a direct rival, and he envisions folks buying Apple’s tablet and Nook Tablet. “Form factor matters,” Lynch says. “Despite the fact (that Apple is) closing in on 40 million iPads in the U.S., the iBookstore is still a much smaller share of the overall market than is the Nook bookstore and the Kindle bookstore. That is because these devices, including Nook Color, have been optimized around the reading experience.” Of course, Kindle and Nook apps let you read books purchased through Amazon or Barnes & Noble on the iPad.
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