Monday, November 7, 2011

Ambiguity, uncertainly make the Android platform difficult for publishers; B&N launches new NOOK Tablet

This morning Barnes & Noble unveiled a new NOOK that is aimed squarely at Amazon's Kindle Fire. Priced at $249, $50 higher than the Kindle Fire, the new tablet offers more storage and its own Nook Newsstand.

The new tablet will be available in stores by the end of this week and is essentially identical in appearance to the NOOK Color.

At this price point, Barnes & Noble are probably breaking even on its tablet sales – something that might not be said of Amazon's Kindle Fire. With this launch, the seven-inch tablet market becomes even more crowded, as well as unprofitable.

But the sudden rush to market of the NOOK Tablet reinforces the impression that the Android platform is the Wild West of tech segments, with new products being introduced quickly and unpredictably. Worse, it is difficult to keep track of the many variations of the Android platform and whether one can and should develop for it. Will an app that runs on the NOOK Tablet run on a XOOM or the Kindle Fire? For Time Inc., a company that has promised to bring all its titles to tablets, Android remains a difficult platform.

Additionally, none of the major Android tablet players are very transparent when it comes to actual sales numbers. Samsung continues to talk about products "shipped", while the book retailers talk about "millions" of sales.

The one question I continue to get asked by publishers is "how many tablets are really out there?" I generally end up quoting Apple quarterly earnings reports, and then talk about Android tablets in more vague terms.

Update: Here is Kate, and she's excited: