Kindle vs Nook 2 starts this week

This week, the Kindle finally gets a worthy competitor (we can hope, as it will push Amazon to lower prices and add features). The Kindle vs Nook 2 comparison/contest will hopefully revive the eReader landscape – which has been as boring as Two and a Half Men sans Mr. Tiger Blood.

Some rough predictions:

Monday, May 23rd: Amazon strengthens up its defences against Nook 2

Amazon makes 2-3 moves to reinforce the Kindle’s charms to current and prospective Kindle owners.

Probably more free book offers than usual. Perhaps a date for when Library Lending will arrive. Amazon will wait until it knows the details of Nook 2 before launching a full attack – However, if information leaks out today, it might move early.

Tuesday, May 24th: B&N finally reveals Nook 2.

Haven’t been this excited since Dairy Queen introduced a new flavor (or was it Baskin Robbins).

  1. Features most likely to be part of Nook 2 – $150 price, improved lending, eInk Pearl screen with optimizations to make the screen contrast slightly better than Kindle 3’s screen contrast, touch using IR technology (the way it’s done in the new Sony Readers), text to speech (50% chance it makes its way in).
  2. Features most likely to be part of Nook 2 WiFi – $125 price.
  3. Slight possibility – B&N forsakes 3G totally and introduces only a WiFi model.
  4. 5% possibility – B&N blows Kindle 3 out of the water by introducing a Qualcomm Mirasol powered color eInk eReader.
  5. The most interesting possibility to me is B&N introducing a Nook for Kids. That would totally derail Amazon’s push into schools. It’s not inconceivable that B&N will release both a $150 Nook 2 and a $100 Nook for Kids. After Nook Color, it would be foolish to underestimate B&N’s capacity to surprise.

How will Amazon respond?

Amazon will probably make at least 2 big announcements on the 24th to deflect some of the attention away from Nook 2. If the 5% possibility turns out to be true (Nook 2 has a color eInk screen) then look out for some falling Kindle prices. If Nook 2 comes in at $150, or seems to offer more value for money than Kindle, then Amazon will probably do a $25 Kindle price-cut or offer a $25 gift card with the Kindle.

It’s unlikely that Amazon would have an answer for Nook for Kids.

Amazon probably has a clear-cut strategy and execution plan for responding to Nook 2 -

  1. A few features it has implemented but not introduced. It will definitely announce a few new features this week.
  2. The date for library book support and perhaps even a date for ePub support.
  3. A few new WhisperNet related services.
  4. Perhaps expansion of the Kindle App Store internationally and the introduction of free Internet browsing for all Kindle owners (not just those in the US). These two are especially likely if B&N does an international launch for Nook 2.
  5. A few special offers on bestsellers and perhaps even a few Living Social deals.
  6. Perhaps a subscription plan.
  7. Perhaps a Kindle+Prime subscription deal.

Amazon will probably announce 2 or 3 big things immediately if it feels Nook 2 is a real threat. If not, it might save them up to hand out over the course of the summer.

Wednesday & Thursday (May 25th and 26th) – Spy vs Spy

Time for B&N and Amazon to decide how they will fight the Kindle vs Nook 2 battle. To fathom out each other’s strategies and attack.

B&N will probably do a repeat of its ‘announce a month or two before release’ strategy with Nook 2. That gives Amazon ample time to respond. If it feels it’s been left behind technologically, it might prepone the Kindle 4 release to end of this year (from February 2012).

The real advantage B&N can get with Nook 2 is hardware/technology. In particular a touch screen and/or a new screen technology. While Amazon can match software improvements easily it will be stuck if B&N introduces one or more clear hardware advantages.

B&N might make some other moves – stronger tie-up with Google, a partnership with Apple, expansion of book lending. None of them would be game changers though. It’s hard to think of anything other than hardware improvements that could have huge impact – perhaps a subscription plan B&N introduces in partnership with Publishers.

Could B&N pull off something in the software space? Software is hardly its area of expertise – but you never know. Hardware wasn’t its area of expertise either and it managed to produce the best non-iPad tablet.

Rest of May 2011 – The Kindle vs Nook 2 battle is decided (in effect)

How strongly Amazon responds to Nook 2 will be a clear indicator of whether it sees Nook as an after-ran in the eReader market or whether Nook really has captured 23% to 25% of the eReader market (DigiTimes mentioned this figure).

If Amazon does not have a Kindle 4 slated for launch in October or November 2011, and there’s a high probability it doesn’t (since it’s probably waiting to release a color eInk based Kindle in Feb 2012), then we will see it respond to Nook 2 very, very agressively.

If B&N introduces a Nook for Kids then Amazon is likely to struggle mightily to respond. It’s ignored the student eReader market (school and college) and B&N might wrap up a large portion of that market even before Amazon can release something built for students.

2011 is going to be a great year to be an eReader owner – current or prospective.

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