As expected, Barnes & Noble will release the Nook Tablet, a new 7-inch multimedia reading and media device, priced at $249, on November 17. In addition, B&N is upgrading the NookColor and the Nook Simple Touch, and lowering their prices to $199 and $99, respectively.
In a presentation held at the Barnes & Noble flagship store at Union Square in New York City, BN.com presidentWilliam Lynch and B&N president of digital products Jamie Iannone, unveiled the Nook Tablet and outlined its technical upgrades—directed specifically at the Amazon Kindle Fire—over the earlier Nook Color tablet device. Indeed B&N left no doubt who they see as their main competitor, offering very specific technical comparisons between the Nook Tablet and the forthcoming Kindle Fire, which Lynch referred to at one point as a “deficient device.” Even the B&N touchscreen e-ink reader, the Nook Simple Touch, now dropped in price to $99 from $139, was hailed by Lynch for being free of “annoying ads” in reference to Amazon’s Kindle Touch e-ink device, priced at $99 for the ad-supported model, but $139 without ads .
As reported at the end of last week, the 7 inch Nook Tablet device is lighter (14.1 ounces), faster (1 GHz dual core processor unlike the Nook Color, with 1GB RAM), with better battery life (9 hours of video watching and 11 hours of reading); and a high tech VividView color touchscreen (reduced glare, wide viewing angles). Besides prose books (2.5 million titles), Lynch pointed to “comics and graphc novels”—DC graphic novels may be on the Kindle Fire exclusively, but Marvel’s logo was all over the Nook Tablets during the presentation. In addition Nook Tablet owners will be able to stream movies from NetFlix, which has been integrated into the device, and TV shows from Hulu. There’s music from Pandora and interactive kids' picture e-books from its Nook Kids line. Lynch also pointed to Nook Newsstand, which offers 250 interative magazines and 35 “special edition” digital magazines.
Nook Color devices will receive a software upgrade “before the holidays” that will add some of the functionality of the Nook Tablet. And the Nook Simple Touch will also receive a software update that will make type sharper, improve battery life and speed up page-turns on the e-ink device.
And look for “a big marketing campaign, featuring actress Jane Lynch (James Patterson and Danielle Steele will also be pitching the device) from the TV show Glee, complete with Glee-like production numbers hailing the arrival of the Nook Tablet.
B&N isn’t just competing on price or even tech specifications: look for an upgrade on Nook in-store merchandising with Nook Digital Shops, spacious areas devoted to displaying the devices. B&N is also offering “free” in-store technical support for Nook devices at all B&N stores—another point directed at Amazon, which of course has no physical store presence. Indeed Lynch said the Nook Tablet offers, “better value than the Kindle Fire,” as he went down a list of technical specifications to highlight the Nook Tablet. The Nook Tablet has double the RAM of the Kindle Fire (512MB) and offers 16 GB of built-in memory and can be expanded to 32GB (the Kindle Fire has 6 GB), “you’ll get zippy performance when you’ve got multiple apps open,” Lynch said. Lynch also spent time praising the Nook Tablet design, which was designed "from scratch" (Amazon, he said, used the RIM Playbook casing off the shelf) and the Nook Tablet's screen technology, which claims to allow “wide-viewing angles,” again, according to Lynch, unlike the Amazon Kindle Fire.
Iannone said the Nook Color software upgrade will feature “over 100 enhancements." The Nook Tablet runs Gingerbread (Android 2.3), but Lynch acknowledged that it does not offer access to the full Android Marketplace. B&N also doesn’t seem concerned that ordinary consumers may not understand the technical differences between the $200 Nook Color (upgraded to most of the functionality of the Nook Tablet) and the $250 Nook Tablet.Asked if he was concerned that B&N was undercutting the pricing of its main device and perhaps confusing ordinary consumers, Lynch told PW they had considered the issue but were not troubled by it, “the Nook Tablet’s features justify the price gap,” he said.
But after spending a fair part of the presentation comparing the Nook Tablet to the Amazon Kindle Fire, Lynch finally said, “I know we keep mentioning Amazon but we’re trying to be pioneering. We’re out to lead, not to follow.”