If you’ve read my blog at all over the past couple of years, you know how unenthusiastic I am about e-readers in general, and the Kindle specifically. Today, Barnes and Noble introduced their new reader, the NookColor, and it’s a huge leap forward that should help them gain significant market share.
The NookColor is, of course, full color, but also important, it features:
- A web browser
- Support for digital music files
- Support for MP4 video files (I’d like to see more codecs supported, but it’s a start)
- Android OS
- Its own app store, so presumably most Android apps will work with it, although B&N will curate the offerings
- 8GB of internal memory, with a Micro-SD slot that can support up to another 32GB
- A mini-USB port
All that, for the low, low price of…$249. You read that right.
James McQuivey of Forrester Research talked a little today about how this new Nook will affect the Sony and Amazon offerings, but what I want to know is how it will affect the iPad. If you read through that feature list above, it matches the iPad almost feature-for-feature, although it surely has a slower processor, and of course wouldn’t sync with iTunes. (Personally I find iTunes bloated and slow, and can’t stand using it anyways, so no loss there.)
So the question is will people keep shelling out $600+ for Apple’s iPad? If so, why? The prestige? The “cool factor”? Because they’ll only buy Apple products?
The NookColor really hits the sweet spot, and is a sign of things to come. It caters to those of us to don’t read enough to justify a dedicated e-reader (most Americans, I’m guessing), and to those of us who think the iPad just isn’t useful enough to justify the price (I don’t think I’m alone there, either.) The NookColor is actually the first e-reader or tablet that has piqued my interest as having sufficient functionality at a reasonable price point. And it doesn’t look half-bad, either.
I don’t think B&N has the marketing chops to take on Apple, but I think the NookColor is the first in a string of low-end tablet/readers we’ll see come out in the next year or two that will turn tablets into a commodity product, like netbooks. At their current pace, Apple may see the iPad get Mac’ed in the not-too-distant future. Its cost and closed nature will relegate the iPad to a niche market of customers who will spend significantly more for the sense of style and status that Apple products bring with them, but the mass market will yet again pass Apple by. Incidentally, Android phones are selling faster than iPhones these days, too…