We learned this from two press reviews yesterday: From the New York Times‘ David Pogue, whose Nook review described the gadget as “slower than an anesthetized slug in winter,” and from the Wall Street Journal‘s Walt Mossberg, who called it “annoying.”
We can’t remember a bloodier beating since Microsoft first unveiled its Zune in 2006. (Except maybe Pogue’s thrashing the BlackBerry Storm last year, which he references in his Nook review.)
And indeed, the Zune and the Nook have a lot in common:
The Nook is an extremely close replication of the Kindle, both physically and in concept, just as the Zune was an extremely close replication of the iPod. Not much innovation here, either in design or technology.
Both the Nook and the original Zune have crippled media-sharing services that are supposed to set them apart from rivals. The Nook’s ability to “share” books with a friend sounds cool until you find out you can only share some books — with publishers’ permission — with only one friend each. Once, ever. For two weeks. This is not very helpful. Just like the Zune’s original “squirt” sharing, where you could share a Zune track with a friend, but they could only listen to it three times, over three days, before they had to buy a copy.
Both the Nook and the Zune have worse media storefronts than the incumbent they’re competing with. The Nook has fewer best-sellers, according to Pogue’s review. Just as the Zune had far fewer songs than iTunes when it launched. Not helpful.
So will the Nook continue along the Zune’s path — always hopelessly two years behind the leader? Maybe. Barnes & Noble promises to fix some of its flaws in software updates, but obviously Amazon will keep improving the Kindle in the meantime. Barnes & Noble is probably in over its head here.
And who knows whether even the Kindle will be as relevant in a year if Apple or Microsoft comes out with colour, multi-touch reader devices next year.
But it’s a shame. Because the Kindle could really use a good competitor, to keep Amazon and publishers honest, to lower prices, and to take e-readers to the next level. So far, the Nook is not a threat.
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