Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Morning Brief: Barnes & Noble unveils new color Nook; politicians aren't the only ways talking out of both sides

This morning Barnes & Noble unveiled its new color Nook e-reader. Priced at only $249, this Android driven device provides an interesting addition to the line-up of new tablets.

"With Nook Color, we've combined the functionality and convenience of a seven-inch portable wireless tablet with the reader-centricity of a dedicated e-reader," Barnes & Noble chief executive William Lynch said in a statement.
"Nook Color enables Web browsing over Wi-Fi, music, games and much more, but reading anything and everything in brilliant color is the killer app and squarely the product's focus."

Opinion on the web is pretty divided about the new Nook's chances of success. Ignoring the Apple haters who will applaud anything without an apple logo on it, there is quite a bit of disagreement about this new Nook. The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal appears to like it, while Forbes' Brian Caulfield thinks this new Nook is really more a competitor for the iPod touch (guys, the "t" isn't capitalized -- this stuff must drive brand managers crazy).

Here are my thoughts on the new Nook: a seven inch tablet is too small for direct competition for a 9.7 inch display -- view identical magazines on the two devices and you'll see what I mean. Many people apparently think that the Nook, because of its Android OS and color display, will not compete against the Kindle at all -- wrong. Again, journalists are completely ignoring the reading experience.

I was on a plane last week reading my newspapers and magazines on my iPad next to a woman who was reading a book on her Kindle. We talked about both devices at length and I stressed the advantages of both devices, in no way did I sell her on an iPad. But after about an hour of using my iPad (it was a three hour flight) she told me straight out that she was going to buy an iPad. The selling point: larger display allows for easier consumption of multimedia. Yes, her Kindle was great for reading books, but if the device also allowed her to view videos, play games (interesting, in that she was over 60), and listen to music then that was the device for her -- though the price was a concern.

This new Nook, I think, will appear to a lot of people who want to read color magazines on it, play Android games, and the like. But it isn't an iPad and it isn't a Kindle -- and that is OK.

So, will it succeed? That's hard to tell because I don't shop at Barnes & Noble -- I find their book prices uncompetitive, and I prefer the online experience of Amazon by a wide margin. In other words, the Nook might struggle more because it is being sold by B&N than because the device itself is some how faulty (though early word is that the device is a bit "laggy" and the screen is not very sharp).

Well, we said the Android tabs were coming, and here is a real, honest-to-goodness Android tab (kind of). Get developing.

Quick thought: where were all these journalists who are complaining about the firing of Juan Williams the past few years? There have been calls for his firing for a long time -- and the same voices have complained about Mara Liasson, as well. The issue is not journalists speaking their minds on Fox News, it is journalists who pretend to be serious about their craft on one network and who then go over to Fox and act like Bill O'Reilly.

Back to the Nook: assuming Android tabs catch on it seems to me that the biggest issue faced by designers for tablets won't be Android versus iOS -- they will have to develop for both -- but small screen versus larger screen.

I think readers, especially younger readers, will like the smaller form factor. But older readers have a hard enough time now with magazines, a seven inch screen only makes things harder unless the screen is all text (think Kindle). This means that developing for smaller screens will require developers to include text-only options with their page designs, something that does not feel like a requirement for the iPad.