November 6, 2011

imageThe Magic 8 Ball (or its gaudy iOS app) may not be as high-tech as Siri, but if the toy were to respond honestly to the question of whether Barnes & Noble will reveal an upgraded version of the Nook Color tomorrow, it would indicate “Signs point to yes.”

The announcement comes not long after Amazon has created a lot of excitement around the Kindle Fire, which has been anointed this holiday season’s #2 tablet behind the iPad before it has even been released. For all the Kindle Fire enthusiasm, though, there’s little that the e-tailer has created with that product that Barnes & Noble would not be able to answer. The Instant Video that Amazon throws in with a Prime subscription, for example, could be countered by a partnership with again Qwikster-less Netflix.

The main exception, though, is in the app selection; this would be magnified as Barnes & Noble stepped up its tablet branding efforts. Neither bookseller can match the breadth of apps offered by Google’s Android Market. Amazon, however, has chosen to offer standard Android apps via its own store whereas Barnes & Noble has chosen to launch its own developer program, resulting in a small collection of optimized Nook apps..

The Nook, though seems to be traveling down the same path that defined how the iPod developed – from fixed-function media consumption device to limited media platform to broad convergence device with the iPod touch. To best compete with the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble would have to greatly accelerate its developer program, and even then it would be far behind. There are no other viable third-party Android app stores that come close to even Amazon’s limited selection at this point.

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April 30, 2010

Each week, The WIRE tracks my contributions to other publications and Web sites.

image CNet
No Flash flood in iPad Avoidance, 4/28
In my Volume Up blog, I shared one of the findings from NPD’s recent iPad perceptions and attitudes study (PDF), in which the lack of Adobe Flash was not a leading inhibitor  among those who said they were not interested in the iPhone. The day after, Steve Jobs published his Thoughts on Flash essay, reinforcing the reasons why Apple’s mobile products will continue to ban both Flash and Flash cross-compilers.

Switched On: Revamps in Motion, 4/27
In my weekly Switched On column, I discussed the approach RIM is taking toward evolving the BlackBerry OS, contrasting it to the overhauls that Microsoft and Palm opted for. Given the news this week that HP will be acquiring Palm, the handset company’s gamble was not sustainable given its resources, but was a valuable asset to HP. Given RIM’s position in the marketplace, an evolutionary approach that keeps it competitive without risking much may be a winning strategy.
Gadgets and Games 4/30
I was a guest on Clayton Morris’s Gadgets and Games, where we discussed many of the big stories of the week with fellow guests Andy Ihnatko and Seth Porges. These included the war of words between Adobe and Apple, HP’s acquisition of Palm, and the release of the Sony Dash, which we had on the program.

imageNPD Group Blog
Tunnels to the Television, 4/26
My first post at the NPD Group Blog this week was a response to my colleague Paul Gagnon’s post on the DisplaySearch blog regarding the future of Hulu and the television. In the post, I discussed the increase NPD has seen in networked content devices that stream music and video around a home network and across the Internet.

E-Reader Distribution Deals Kindle Sales Beyond a Nook, 4/28
This post discussed the implications of the broadening distribution of e-readers with the Nook landing at Best Buy and the Kindle landing at Target. My colleague Steve Baker had an insightful follow-up.

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October 23, 2009

I’m no industrial designer, but as someone who is immersed in retail market research, I have noticed a contrast between the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook that seem to reflect their retail philosophy.

Let’s think about Amazon, an online retail pioneer. When I think about online selling, I think about efficiency, value, purpose and focus. Get out of the way of the transaction. This is reflected in the Kindle which, despite its name, is an icy cold, colorless device. Jeff Bezos has said several times that a guiding principle behind the Kindle is to have it “disappear in your hands.” “Just give me the content and minimize the fuss.”

Now let’s consider Barnes & Noble – a multichannel retailer that seeks to at least match Amazon’s clean, expedient online experience, but which also  evokes a warm library or reading room in its stores and wants a rich experience with books there. That multichannel approach is reflected in the design’s dual screens. The paper display is the cold, online part that blends into the white border like the Kindle. The bottom screen, though, shows color cover art and its touch capabilities allow you to browse as one would a bookshelf and get “hands on” with a book at a store. Warmth is also reflected in the “Nook” name and the choice of pastel backs.

And of course, the integration of the Nook with Barnes & Noble stores is more than just skin-deep, with the retailer taking advantage of the product’s integrated Wi-Fi to do in-store reading and promotion, and Barnes & Noble’s physical stores will be a good place to showcase the lineup of designer accessories that have high profitability potential.

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October 21, 2009

One of the most noteworthy innovations of the Barnes & noble Nook had little to do with the device itself and more to do with Barnes & Noble’s goodwill and bargaining power with the publishers it cited at its launch event. The e-reader has the ability to lend books for a period of two weeks.

It’s not the first time a device has had the ability to allow friends to sample content. Microsoft’s Zune famously allowed “three plays or three days” for songs that were shared from another Zune using peer-to-peer Wi-Fi in a process Microsoft unfortunately called “squirting.” While the ability to sample viral music likely had some appeal for the Zune owner, there were siimply not enough Zunes to make the feature worthwhile and Microsoft dropped the feature with the Zune HD.

Like the Zune at its debut, the Nook will also be starting from an installed base of zero. However, Barnes & Noble has circumvented the chicken and egg by by allowing consumers to share its e-books with any compatible device running B&N client software, such as a PC, iPhone or BlackBerry. A Windows M9obile client in the works was confirmed by the company

The question, though, is how does the ability to lend e-books enhance one’s experience as a Nook owner? Clearly if one is in the middle of reading a b9ooik, lending it out for two weeks (which makes it unavailable to the owner) is simply a nuisance. There could be some gratification in lending a completed book to a friend, though. Hopefully, publishers, which control how long a book can be lent for, won’t start calculating how long it takes someone tor read a book and deny lending rigts to shorter titles based on that.

The tie to the Nook is also tenuous for the borrower, who doesn’t have to buy a Nook to enjoy a lent book. Barnes & Noble, though, may really be looking down the road if it supposes that simply exposing more consumers to digital books will grow the market eventually.

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