While the Kindle 3 is having a great run of sales there are several potentially dangerous Kindle 3 competitors set to launch this year – some in the new few weeks and some by Christmas.
Let’s take a look.
Kindle 3’s Biggest Competitor – Nook 2
The Nook 2 showed up at the FCC several weeks ago. Around the same time B&N announced that its grand strategy to fight Kindle 3 was to create small Nook stores modeled on the Apple Store design within B&N bookstores. That strategy doesn’t make sense unless there’s a new improved Nook to sell.
It seems that early in September we’ll see the Nook 2 launch in parallel with these new Nook Stores and perhaps that’ll be enough to stop the Kindle 3 from taking over the eReader market.
My money’s on Nook 2 arriving with – eInk Pearl Screen, a better version of the LendMe feature, far less bugs, better integration between LCD touchscreen and eInk screen. It would be a surprise if it had one or more of – touch screen, text to speech, accessibility. It would also be a surprise if B&N started selling it outside the US.
Kindle 3’s Touch screen Competitor – Sony 650
The rumors about the Sony 650 are much stronger since we’ve seen Sony Insider reveal a lot of details including –
- Touch layer that goes below eInk and thus doesn’t impede readability.
- Strong hints that eInk Pearl is involved.
- The new Sony Reader 650 is supposed to be very thin (less than 10 mm) and very compact.
- It’s supposed to have WiFi and there are even a few rumors of 3G connectivity.
- There’s talk of a new user interface and a few people have suggested Android is involved.
If Sony 650 can pull all this off then its existing strengths (library books, ePub, compactness, good looks, touch) will combine with new strengths (better readability, eInk Pearl screen, WiFi, better user interface) to make a very impressive eReader.
Sony’s store and infrastructure will still be lacking but it might have a surprise trump card there as Google Editions is supposed to launch soon (rumors say October) and might be integrated into Sony 650.
Big in Russia Competitor – Pocketbook
At MobileRead they’ve found images of the new generation of PocketBook eReaders. It seems there are five versions –
- Pocketbook 602 which has a Kindle 2 style aluminium back, speakers at the bottom, page turn buttons on one side, and a circular navigator/5-way.
- Pocketbook Pro 603 which has 3G, comes with a stylus which indicates a touch screen and possible handwriting support, and looks pretty similar to the 602.
- Pocketbook 902 which is a 10″ screen version of the 602.
- Pocketbook Pro 903 which seems to be a 10″ version of the 603.
- Pocketbook IQ which looks a lot like an iPad and has a TFT color screen. It’s probably the best looking of the bunch.
These are all being made by FoxConn which also manufactures Kindle 3, iPad, Nook, and iPhone.
Here are some very interesting details courtesy IgorSK –
- The software for the 902, 903, 602, and 603 models is based on Linux and is Open Source. The Pocketbook IQ runs Android 2.0.
- There’s text to speech with 4 languages pre-installed and another 28 possible.
- There’s an accelerometer.
- It supports ePub and PDF with DRM and 14 other formats.
- Dictionaries for 20 languages.
- Support for adding notes.
- Folders with sub-Folders.
- There might be PC apps to support the eReaders. Perhaps they mean something like Kindle for PC.
- All models have 2 GB memory.
- All models have WiFi while two (603 and 903) also have 3G.
- The 603 and 903 have Wacom touchscreens.
It’s interesting that they’ve made it so that absolutely any apps or software can be installed on top of the existing OS. There’s also a comment saying that Pocketbook is selling over 50,000 eReaders a month and that it’s the leading eReader in Russia.
The models are supposed to be available in November 2010. There are some comments at Mobile Read that Pocketbook doesn’t support ePub and PDF well and that there are often text formatting errors.
In terms of price the claim is that prices might be 450 Euro for the Pocketbook 903, 400 Euro for the Pocketbook 902, and under 300 Euro for the Pocket book 603. That’s way more expensive than Kindle 3 and Kindle DX 2.
Lots of complaints on the supposed prices and, in my opinion, if those really are the prices it kills the PocketBook’s chances of doing damage in the US eReader market.
‘It’ll arrive some day’ Competitor – the mythical Android Tablet
Not exactly an eReader but considered a Kindle 3 rival nonetheless.
The great hope was Adam which would use the magical Pixel Qi screen with Android. Supporting Flash seems to have killed Adam’s chances of arriving early and perhaps Apple really is right about Flash not being worth the trouble.
A seemingly endless number of Android Tablets have been announced but none have seemed to materialize.
- Will there be any by Christmas? Probably.
- Will any of those be really good? Unlikely.
- Will any threaten the Kindle 3? Not really.
All in all the Android Tablet is a very interesting threat – It’s the perfect competitor in that it forces you to improve and be wary and prepared and then it never shows up.
Very good Android Tablets are probably not going to arrive until early 2011. It’s possible that Kindle for Android becomes the reading app of choice for Android Tablets though Google Editions will be a major threat.
Flexible, color screen ‘sounds too good to be true’ competitors powered by LG Display
LG Display has been talking about having color eReader screens and flexible eReader screens for so long it’s threatening to take over Plastic Logic’s title of ‘Under-deliverer of the Year’. Now it’s saying that it has 9.7″ color eReader screens arriving by end 2010 and that there will also be 19″ flexible eReader screens.
Let’s get this straight – They can’t deliver a 6″ color or 6″ flexible screen but want to deliver a 9.7″ color screen and a 19″ flexible screen. That sounds a lot like Plastic Logic’s ‘We’re going to make a $649 business eReader’ strategy.
If you have a millions of eReaders a year market for 6″ screen eReaders (perhaps tens of millions of eReaders a year by 2011) and an unknown market for 19″ screen eReaders why would you concentrate on the latter? Have they even tested what carrying around a 19″ screen eReader feels like? Is it flexible enough to bend like a newspaper?
The Role of Google Editions
Google Editions constantly lurks in the background. Google’s partnerships with Sony and B&N mean that both Nook 2 and Sony 650 will probably end up with Android Operating systems and direct connections to Google Editions by end of 2010.
It will make for a really interesting contest –
- Amazon Customer Service + Trust Vs B&N plus Google trust and B&N customer service.
- Kindle Store vs Google Editions plus B&N ebook store.
- Kindle infrastructure vs Perhaps Google Cloud.
- Kindle 3 vs Nook 2, Sony 650.
- Kindle App Store (perhaps) vs Android App Store.
- Kindle’s own OS vs Android.
- Amazon.com shopping traffic vs Google.com search traffic.
At a time when Kindle 3 looks unbeatable it’s interesting that the biggest competitor might not be another eReader but Google. Nook 2 and Sony 650 are unlikely to be impressive enough to both beat Kindle 3 and overcome Amazon’s store and infrastructure advantage – However, Google and Google Editions might be effective counters to Kindle Store and WhisperNet and it would turn the 2010 holiday season into a 2-way or 3-way contest.
The Kindle 3 will see some really solid competition soon and its biggest competitor is going to be Google.