The Nook Tablet might be too expensive to survive.
While Barnes & Noble and its loyal legion of Nook lovers may respond to that assessment by noting that the Nook Tablet is 50% cheaper than the leading tablet from Apple, it is also $50 more than the Amazon Kindle Fire.
To be clear, $250 isn’t a lousy pricing strategy. But considering the timing of the device’s announcement (a month after Kindle Fire and just a few months before the iPad 3 is expected to be unveiled), the Nook Tablet has put itself in a difficult position. First and foremost, its competitors have much stronger brands. Though the iPad remains the clear tablet leader, Kindle owns the e-reader market. This will make it hard for Barnes & Noble to get the attention of either the high-end or low-end consumer bases, as they already have tablet options that meet their needs. While the Kindle Fire’s success is still up in the air, its pre-order numbers are very promising.
Whereas the Nook Tablet will be in stores and in homes “on or about November 17,” Kindle Fire has a firm release date of November 15.
Do these tiny details matter? Will consumers really care about the brand name on the package? Maybe, maybe not. Will they really choose the Kindle Fire because it’s released first? Not likely – if they really want a Nook, they’ll get a Nook. They might even be willing to ignore the $50 price difference, but I doubt it.
However, Barnes & Noble faces another challenge: advertising. For the last two years, Amazon has been pushing the Kindle heavily with a national TV ad campaign. While the company’s latest attempt to promote the product is rather lame (see below), there’s no denying that Amazon’s reach is enormous.
Whenever Amazon unveils a new product, it knows that it can gain instant exposure by placing a promo on the front page of Amazon.com. That exposure comes in addition to the hundreds (if not thousands) of hype-filled articles that the tech and mainstream media provide. Heck, the article that you are reading right now – which is intended to be an examination of the Nook Tablet’s potential success at retail – could be perceived as Kindle Fire hype.
Barnes & Noble doesn’t have those same luxuries. No one visits BarnesAndNoble.com unless they’re looking for books. (Though I have to admit that before iTunes took over, I used to order CDs from the retailer. I may have also purchased a board game from Barnes & Noble. That’s something, right?)
That said, I have only visited Barnes & Noble’s website when searching for something very specific, such as images or information on the latest Nook.
One advantage the Nook Tablet might have is its screen. Without using either the Kindle Fire or the Nook Tablet, we do not yet know which will provide the more beautiful viewing experience, nor can we judge their touch sensitivity. My assumption is that Amazon will excel in the latter category. But the picture quality is anybody’s guess. Apple will likely retain its status as the tablet manufacturer with the best-looking screen, but either of these two new tablets could be a close second.
For me, the screen quality (visual and touch capabilities) is the most important factor in a tablet. Without them, the device is useless. But for some consumers, storage will be a significant factor, and that’s an area where the Nook Tablet has a clear advantage. With 16GB built-in memory and the option to add an additional 32GB with a microSD memory card, the Nook Tablet is vastly superior to the 8GB storage offered by the Kindle Fire. Amazon would surely argue that tablets are all about the cloud, that consumers don’t need more memory, etc. But what if they want extra memory anyway? After all, you can extend the battery life of both of these tablets by turning Wi-Fi off.
On paper, battery life is another area where the Nook Tablet beats the Kindle Fire. Whereas the Kindle Fire’s battery will be depleted after 8 hours of continuous reading or 7.5 hours of video playback (with wireless off), the Nook Tablet promises 11.5 hours of reading or 9 hours of video (also with wireless off).
Another advantage Nook Tablet advantage is that Barnes & Noble has physical stores people can actually visit to see, touch, test, buy and return the new device. This is likely to be true for the Kindle Fire is well, but only for consumers who go to a third-party retailer like Best Buy. If consumers wish to shop directly with Amazon, they have to do everything by mail. For a product like this, that might not be satisfactory enough for some shoppers.