How Nexus 7 Will Finish Nook


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.

About Dean Howell

Aside from being a huge Sega fan, Dean is an LPIC certified Linux professional with over a decade experience. In addition to spending his free time burning through the classics from Sega and evangelizing open source, he's also the editor-in-cheif of The Powerbase.
  • Fun

    “The Nexus 7 has undercut the very lacklusterNook Tablet by $50, and meets the Kindle Fire eye-to-eye. ”

    Didn’t B&N recently come out with an 8GB version of the Nook Tablet for $199 in order to compete with the Kindle Fire (8MB)? So all three tablets are $199.

    I like the Nexus 7, and I really like the price, but I’d rather have an SD slot than that front facing camera. Tablets are media consumption devices foremost and more storage means more content.

    A front facing is good for what? Video chat? A “mirror-mirror-on-the-wall” app? That’s not going to make me want to buy more content.

    Give me the SD slot that the Nook Tablet has and I’m sold. I can load up that thing with cartoons, movies, etc. and hand it to the kids on a long trip, or on a plane, or in a waiting room, or anyplace else where I don’t have streaming capability.

    • Charlie Whitman

      I tend to agree about the uselessness of the camera and the lack of an SD slot. I’d rather have just a camera on the back than just one on the front of a device, but of course, my smartphone is always there for ever-ready mediocre quality photography.

      The lack of an SD card slot is somewhat offset by the large memory capacity, but not enough. If the device had USB host capability (which I doubt we’ll see), then that, combined with the larger internal capacity could make me interested. Without either an SD card slot or USB host though, it looks like a yawner to me. Even hundred dollar Chinese tablets tend to have both an SD slot and USB host (along with the American versions like the IVIEW tablets). The cheap Polaroid tablets have an SD card slot. Why can’t the Nexus?

      I have my Nook Color with Cyanogenmod 7. This would really catch my eye if it at least did everything that could do because of the extra power, but I’m really disappointed by the lack of a micro-SD card slot.

  • IGnatius T Foobar

    I think one of the most exciting things about Google selling a high-profile Android device in large numbers directly to consumers is that Google is the one company who will *never* submit to Microsoft’s bogus patent extortion. And that’s a good thing. I’ll happily pay $199 for a Nexus tablet, knowing that not one penny of it is going to Redmond.

    Once these things start selling in numbers, it will be time for Microsoft to either put up or shut up.

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  • Jim Scarff

    I have a Nook Tablet (rooted – only way to have it) and am seriously considering getting a Nexus 7 instead. Two features of the Nook Tablet that do not get mentioned enough IMO are 1) the terrific anti-glare coating they have applied to the screen which does a much better job than the Kindle Fire or other tablets (see tablet comparison), and 2) the color accuracy of the display. I have not seen the Nexus 7 in person but the mini-review of the Nexus 7 on showed underrepresentations of greens, limited brightness and perhaps other issues. Either for showing my photos to friends or viewing media, color accuracy is important to me. The Nook Tablet seems to get that right, the ASUS Transformer Prime is well off the mark, and the Nexus 7?