The Day the Nook Died
The Nexus 7 has been unveiled today to much fanfare. 2 years after the first mainstream Android tablet devices were introduced, Google has finally decided to make an official foray into a segment that is already populated by its immensely popular mobile operating system.
This foray in particular is probably the smartest one that Google has made in the hardware space, ever. It takes very accurate aim and fires at the two competitors in the ereader space that have been precariously dangling is the custom Android firmware universe. Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
The first attack that Google has issued against these adversaries is price. The Nexus 7 has undercut the very lacklusterNook Tablet by $50, and meets the Kindle Fire eye-to-eye. Now you might argue that you don’t need a full tablet because all you do is consume media and no actual work takes place. The Nexus 7 is overkill. There lies the second assault…
Those of you who have been following the Nexus 7 in your news stream may have been a little confused when you saw the non-standard tablet interface. In fact, it just looks like a big phone in photographs. Perhaps this caused mass hysteria as you imagined a future of Asus Transformer’s with giant, scaled-up phone interfaces. Maybe you had the imaginary foresight to look into the near future where there still weren’t anymore tablet-optimized applications. Those questions were answered today by Google.
This device is all about consumption.
User Content Fantasies And Perceptions
Thanks to Jelly Bean, you now have the ability to play with, and arrange you digital content all over your homescreens, which has always been an issue for Android. As an original owner of the Nook Color, I always appreciated the ability to throws my books and magazines all around my homescreen in a messy and haphazard manner, because that’s what I would do in real life, but really, the virtual, psychological impact that paradigm had on me was extremely effective. It made me feel like my library was real. Real, and mine. Currently there is no experience like that on a standard Android device, despite all of the sources available. Google realizes this and is proving it with Jelly Bean.
This puts the Nook in a very sensitive position. Barnes & Noble is in second place when it come to ereader marketshare, but that’s not everything. Their position, for better or for worse, is behind by a large margin. Nook simply does not have the mindshare that Amazon has with the Kindle. Let’s face it, the battlefield of tech is ruled by mindshare. The iPad is perfect evidence of that.
Let’s take a moment to visualize how large retailers currently setup their tablets for display. Apple devices stand alone. Apple typically pays a great deal of money to big-box retailers to compartmentalize Apple products into a tiny little store front, away from the competition, and in this example they do not count. Android devices are typically grouped together in the same way as desktops and laptops, and more often than not, they are segmented by size. It’s not uncommon to see the current 7″ Android tablet offerings alongside ereader devices like the Nook and the Kindle Fire. If an average consumer is presented with a Nook Tablet, Kindle Fire and a Nexus 7 all in a line, what will they choose?
The first thing that the consumer will notice is 2 black, unassuming and nondescript flat-black surfaces. Next to that is the interesting, bold exterior of the Nook Tablet. In the reality of flat, nondescript flat-black surfaces, the Nook Tablet looks somewhat gimmicky.
Next, this individual will note that, while crippled from a usability sense, the Kindle Fire offers buttery-smooth interaction and presents all of the users content in a bold and obvious way. The Kindle leaves no question as to how the system operates. Moving on to the Nexus 7 the consumer notes first the price. They will see that it is priced competitively, it is about the same size as the Kindle, it weighs practically nothing and it presents the users digital library in a bold and obvious way.
Moving back to the Nook, which I am still regretfully attached to because of the amount of content I own through the B&N store. Consumer Cathy sees that Books are portrayed in a bold and obvious way. The interface is clunky and it is not obvious when the device is unlocked that there is much more than that from first glance. Cathy might dismiss the Nook immediately. If she doesn’t, she will surely go on to notice the clunky and bizarre abomination of the stock Android launcher. The B&N launcher is slower and harder to use than both the stock Android Launcher and especially more cumbersome the that of the Kindle Fire.
Short term predictions
In July you can expect the original Nook Color to drop to prices as low as $69.99 for final liquidation. Secondly, I expect that B&N will want to liquidate stock of the existing 16GB Nook Tablet and focus all manufacturing on the current 8GB model and not advertise capacity. The 8GB model may drop to as low as $129.99 until inventory runs out in the fall. Expect scarce supply of all Nook Colors and Nook Tablets as early as late September as B&N approaches a hardware refresh.
Things are gonna get ugly and B&N might burn through $300 million dollars of Microsoft’s cash in a very short period of time.
What can B&N do to save the Nook?
They should play their strengths. They need to own the 1024×600 display segment and solidify it’s supply chain. Introduce a 6″ color device and go edge-to-edge with it. Getting rid of that giant bezel will not only diversify the product, but it will shed a few grams and deliver a product that no-one is making. 1024×600 would be a great target resolution for a 6″ screen and will allow B&N to compete on DPI while delivering a cheap and great device.
What else? Fix that launcher.