Barnes and Noble is preparing to launch a new Nook Tablet designed to go head-to-head with the Amazon Kindle Fire at $199. The Nook Tablet seems like a solid, capable device, but it is more likely to offer competition for Android tablets in general than for the Kindle Fire.
On one level it seems like it makes sense that the Nook Tablet and the Kindle Fire should be in direct competition. Barnes and Noble and Amazon are the two biggest rivals for book sales–both physical books and ebooks. And, Barnes and Noble and Amazon compete directly for the ereader market with the Kindle and Nook.
The Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet are different, though. The Nook Tablet is an ereader running on Android that has semi-reluctantly evolved into an economical Android tablet alternative. The Kindle Fire, on the other hand, is a distinctively Amazon device built around a uniquely Amazon experience.
Barnes and Noble can build a device similar in size and shape to the Kindle Fire. It can design it around hardware specs and capabilities that are virtually identical to the Kindle Fire. It can run essentially the same library of Android apps as the Kindle Fire as well. What Barnes and Noble can’t incorporate with its Nook Tablet, though, is Amazon.
As tablets, both the Nook Tablet and the Kindle Fire are quite limited. Neither is equipped with front or rear-facing cameras, GPS capabilities, Bluetooth, or other features that are common aspects of mainstream tablets. But, at half the price of most Android tablets, the Nook Tablet and Kindle Fire offer a compelling value as an economy tablet option.
If someone is simply shopping for a less expensive Android tablet, the Nook Tablet might be the better choice. PCWorld’s Melissa Perenson actually prefers the Nook Tablet to the Kindle Fire. In a head-to-head comparison the Nook excels in many areas and is superior to the Kindle Fire in various ways.
But way the Nook Tablet falls short of the Kindle Fire is its ability to connect with the Amazon ecosystem–and that is the true trump card for the Kindle Fire.
Kindle Fire owners aren’t just buying an Android knock-off tablet. They’re buying an Amazon tablet. With Amazon Prime, and Amazon’s Cloud Music Player, combined with the integration with the Amazon ecosystem in general, the Kindle Fire provides a broad range of capabilities that are uniquely Amazon and set the device apart from Android tablets in general–the Nook Tablet included.
So, Barnes and Noble can make a 7-inch Android tablet, and it can price it equivalent with the Kindle Fire, but since it can’t offer the one, defining feature that makes the Kindle Fire a great device, it can’t really compete with it.