Kindle vs Nook Color – ‘Nook Color’ confirmed

We have proof that the Kindle vs Nook Color showdown is indeed guaranteed. Well, if you take my little find as enough proof (and it almost certainly is). 

  1. The domain nookcolor.com is registered to Barnes & Noble.
  2. The domain registration clearly shows ‘Barnes and Noble LLC’ as the organization.
  3. It was registered on March 9th, 2010 – That seems to indicate Nook Color has been in the works for 7 months or rather that the name was decided 7 months ago and that the Nook Color was conceived at least 7 months ago.  
  4. The fact that NookColor.com is registered to B&N while other domains like colornook, nook3, nooktablet, etc. are not suggests that B&N has already decided to call it the ‘Nook Color’.
  5. B&N did the same thing with Nook WiFi where it bought up the domain name before hand.

In my opinion this is more than enough proof that there really is a color Nook – which confirms the CNet tipster’s claim. It’s nice to know it’s going to be called Nook Color and not something outlandish like NookCranny.

B&N is super clumsy at times – Not only did it not make the domain registration private to hide the upcoming release it also has its administrators’ information listed in the WHOIS directory. You could literally call up the admins and ask why they have NookColor.com registered. Of course, it’s 3 am EST so that option is out.

Now that we know Kindle will have to compete with Nook Color …

The guessing games start.

  1. Is Nook Color a tablet with a focus on reading or an eReader with a color screen?
  2. This pretty much guarantees the October 26th event is about Nook Color. What else will B&N announce? Nook App Store? LendMe enhancements?
  3. Will B&N really keep Nook 1 around? It makes sense at one level (the cheaper Nook eReader) but at the same time it’s a lot of extra testing and overhead.
  4. How will Kindle 3 compare with Nook Color? We still don’t know the color Nook’s technical specifications so it’s hard to say who will win.
  5. How did B&N get the time, in the midst of its selling itself to itself soap opera, to come up with a color screen Nook?  
  6. Is Mike Cane right and is Nook Color just a rebranded Archos 70?
  7. Does B&N have bigger ambitions than just ebooks? Is B&N thinking of competing with the iPad?

Kindle vs Nook has been revived and with a color screen Nook no less. In fact, B&N might have taken a big, huge jump and decided to take on more than eBooks and build more than an eReader. Perhaps the prospect of extinction has given B&N extra courage and creativity and it has something truly remarkable in store for us.

The next week is going to be very, very interesting and it will probably decide the direction Kindle vs Nook takes and determine which reading device wins the 2010 holiday season.

Kindle vs Nook Color, $249 Nook Color rumor

The Kindle 3 might soon face competition from a Nook Color. Yes, that’s right – Kindle vs Nook Color where Nook 2 (aka Nook Color) would have a 7″, full color screen and retail for $249.

It’s all a rumor but interesting enough and strange enough that it might very well be true.

Nook Color – CNet has the scoop

Here’s what CNet has to say about Nook Color -

a source who says the company will unveil a new Android-based full-color touch-screen e-reader next Tuesday, October 26.

Barnes & Noble’s new e-reader will be called the Nook Color, have a 7-inch screen, and retail for $249.

The tipster said the entire company has been focused on this product and that “it’s a big step ahead, instead of chasing Amazon.”

The source also said existing Nooks will continue to be sold. 

CNet are curious, just like everyone else, about what color screen technology Nook 2 will use. The $249 price suggests that the screen probably cost $50 more than the eInk screen and that means Pixel Qi and Mirasol are both possibilities. It’s likelier that B&N decided to go with LCD.

Perhaps they have Nook 1 as their eReader and Nook 2 as their 7″ mini-Tablet. That would certainly be interesting.

Credit to B&N for making things interesting again – the only way they could spoil things is by releasing a device that isn’t a dedicated reading device.

Kindle vs Nook Color – How do they compare?

Well, let’s take a look -

  1. Is it a Tablet or an eReader? If Nook Color is a tablet then this Kindle vs Nook Color comparison is moot.
  2. Screen – Kindle 3 has a 6″ eInk Pearl screen while Nook Color would have a 7″ color screen. Nook wins if it’s a reading focused screen. 
  3. Reading Experience – If Nook has a color epaper screen it might win. Else Kindle wins as eInk is better for reading than LCD (unless you’re LCD compatible).
  4. Distribution – B&N just announced that Nook 1 would begin selling at WalMart and at Walmart.com on October 24th. It’s safe to assume Nook color will sell there too. B&N wins here.
  5. Multi-purposeness. Nook Color wins here unless you like a device focused on reading.
  6. Price – Kindle clearly wins as Nook Color is rumored to be priced $60 higher.
  7. Value for Money – If Nook Color is $249 and allows lots of things in addition to reading then it wins.
  8. Store – Kindle still wins.
  9. Apps – Android allows B&N to offer Android Apps. B&N would pull far ahead of the Kindle App Store.
  10. Usability – This is a big one. Would Nook 2 be more usable? Perhaps. Certainly if it uses its color screen well.
  11. Battery Life – Kindle probably wins here.
  12. ePub support and Library Books – It would be a safe assumption that Nook Color supports ePub and library books. Nook Color wins.

There’s not that much information at this point.

The more you think about it the likelier it seems that B&N would split the Nook into two product lines – Nook Color as the Tablet/Reader, and Nook 1 as the dedicated eReader. It allows B&N to bypass the rather difficult task of attempting to beat Kindle 3 – It can instead try and flank the Kindle by providing a cheap mini-tablet that you can also read on.

How important is Nook’s availability at WalMart going to be?

Very Important. Exceedingly important.

Nook and Nook Color are going to be available at Best Buy, Target, WalMart, B&N stores, and some other retail outlets. That’s a lot of channels but there’s little doubt that WalMart might end up being the single most important retail channel.

WalMart’s motivation to sell Nooks is going to be five-fold as they get to hurt Amazon and reduce the rate at which people are buying a direct channel to Amazon.com (at some level that’s what Kindle is).

Here’s a little snippet from the B&N WalMart Press Release -

“Sales of NOOK devices continue to exceed our expectations, and we are thrilled to be able to partner with Walmart, one of the world’s greatest retailers, to expand the distribution of our award-winning NOOK eBook Reader,”

Nook (and potentially Nook 2) being sold at 2,500 WalMart stores certainly adds to Amazon’s Nook Color headache.

The Press Release also mentions the ‘Nook as perfect gift for book lovers’ angle. It’s pretty clear that B&N views Christmas 2010 as its big opportunity to steal back the attention, and some market share, from Kindle.

In another few days we’re going to find out all the details about Kindle vs Nook Color and whether Amazon has another dangerous, end of the year Nook release to cope with.

Kindle 3 might see Nook 2 this 11th

The Kindle 3 might soon see Nook 2 enter the eReader arena – What makes me think the Nook 2 release date will be the 11th?

The fact that Best Buy is offering a $25 ebook gift card with Nook purchases from today through the 11th. Thanks to MobileRead for the update -

Order a Barnes & Noble NOOK e-reader and you can get a free $25 e-book card. Use this card to purchase an e-book, magazine, or newspaper. Plus, you’ll get free shipping on both items.

The Steps are:

1) Select a Nook. 2) Select $25 eBook Card. 3) Add both to cart. 4) Order.

Here are a few key points -

  1. It’s with the Nook WiFi and with the Nook.  
  2. If you count the $25 gift card against the price (which people will) it translates to $125 for Nook WiFi and $175 for Nook. Nook prices fall below Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi prices.
  3. This is only offered at Best Buy. So far there’s no mention of this at the Barnes and Noble website.

The first question is whether this really means Nook 2 is about to arrive.

Nook 2 is definitely set to arrive

This ‘price drop before new eReader arrives’ pattern is something we’ve seen repeated again and again -

  1. Amazon did it with Kindle 1 just before Kindle 2 arrived.
  2. Amazon again did it with Kindle 2 just before Kindle 3 arrived.
  3. Sony did it with its Sony 300 and 600 eReaders just before Sony 350 and Sony 650 arrived.

There’s a very high chance that Best Buy is simply helping B&N clear Nook stock before the Nook 2 arrives.

Claiming the free $25 gift card is in response to the Kindle 3’s price makes little sense – There were no price cuts all through August even though Kindle 3 was selling like hotcakes and probably cutting into Nook sales.

Coincidentally, a Nook 2 release date around the 11th would go very well with the launch of B&N’s new Nook mini-stores (modeled on Apple Stores) which are slated for an early September release.

Why is only Best Buy offering the gift card?

Perhaps Best Buy wants to clear up its stock of Nooks in preparation for the Nook 2. It probably doesn’t want to be left with a bunch of hard to sell older Nook models. B&N can use left over Nook 1s as replacement units or can sell them as cheaper, ‘refurbished’ Nooks. Best Buy has stronger restrictions in terms of shelf space.

B&N tend to be slow on things – perhaps it just hasn’t gotten around to updating its website with the offer.

It’s a bit surprising that there’s a gift card for the Nook WiFi. B&N couldn’t be making much on the Nook WiFi and with the $25 gift card (perhaps equivalent to $15 in actual cost) it might end up taking a hit on each Nook WiFi sold.

11th as the likeliest Nook 2 release date

B&N might announce Nook 2 this week – However, the 11th seems far more likely. It’s enough time for it to set up its Nook mini-stores and get its marketing campaign ready.

The Nook 2’s release is the most eagerly awaited release after Kindle 3 and it’ll be a lot of fun to finally compare Kindle 3 and Nook 2.

Predicting Nook 2, Kindle 3 vs Nook 2 outcome

The arrival of the Kindle 3 has made things really boring since it’s the clear #1 choice in the eReader market. Amazon probably likes it this way – However, as a reader you want to see companies fighting bloody battles to win your hard-earned dollars.

B&N has been careful to not reveal any details about if/when the Nook 2 will arrive and what it’ll be like. So, to fill the void, here are my predictions for what the Nook 2 will be like. Please keep in mind that this is giving B&N a lot of the benefit of the doubt – It’s highly unlikely it’ll release a Nook 2 that’s this solid.

Nook 2 – B&N’s last stand

B&N knows it can’t keep losing the battles and that perhaps only the top 2 eReader companies are going to make it out of this alive. Nook 2 is probably going to be its very best shot -

  1. Nook 2 Price: $199 or $189.
  2. Screen: eInk Pearl 6″ screen.
  3. Nook Body: Pretty much the same as before.
  4. NEW: Text to Speech and Speech to Text introduced. Accessibility still missing.
  5. Nook Apps: High probability of a few additions like Crosswords (Nook 1 already has Chess and Sudoku). Low probability of opening up to a selected set of Android apps. 
  6. LendMe: Expanded. Publishers and B&N are both desperate and they’ll probably agree and make this a real feature (lend to 2 people or 3 people).
  7. PDF Support: Much Improved though buggy since this will probably be added at the last minute to compete.
  8. Weight: The same since it’s unlikely B&N got time to even think about this.
  9. LCD touchscreen: Much improved in both quality and performance.
  10. Usability: Still spotty though it’s likely the LCD and eInk screens now work better together. 
  11. Library Books – Support continued and now advertised more.
  12. ePub support – Continued.
  13. Battery Life – Improved marginally to 2 weeks (Nook 1 has 10 days battery life).
  14. Page Turn Speed – Improved marginally (Nook 1 is pretty slow).
  15. B&N Store – Continues and books can now be moved to any device capable of reading DRMed ePub.
  16. Google Editions – New Content Partner. Works in parallel with B&N ebook store.
  17. Google partnership on Search – B&N and Google Editions show up first for nearly all ebook related searches.
  18. WiFi – Continued with 802.11 n support added.
  19. 3G – Expanded with free Internet through AT&T.
  20. Lots of benefits stay the same – Custom Screensavers, Back Covers, Replaceable Battery, SD Card Slot.
  21. Lots of bug fixes and no more sluggishness – A bit unlikely but would be a big help if B&N pulls it off.
  22. Possible Killer Feature 1: Unbreakable Screen.
  23. Possible Killer Feature 2: eInk touch screen.
  24. Possible Killer Feature 3: Color – either through Qualcomm or via a dual-mode display.
  25. Possible Killer Feature 4: International release with Unicode font support.

The unbreakable screen and the touch screen are somewhat possible while Color is highly unlikely. An International release is pretty likely though the Unicode font support might not happen. Also, B&N is unlikely to put in the effort to sign book deals with Publishers in other countries.

We already know B&N is going to make a big Nook 2 push with mini-stories focused on the Nook 2 in all retail B&N stores. This is a good move and it helps B&N take advantage of one of its main strengths (one that Amazon can’t really match).

Kindle 3 vs Nook 2 – Will Nook 2 restore parity?

There are three scenarios -

  1. Nook 2 is an absolute smash of a release with multiple killer features (2 or more of color, touch, unbreakable screen, international availability) and manages to edge the Kindle 3. This is a bit unlikely since Kindle 3 has really pushed the bar.  
  2. Nook 2 is a very solid release but is a little behind the Kindle 3. This is the likeliest possibility and it might be enough for B&N – Perhaps its first priority should be ensuring it outdistances everyone other than the Kindle and keeps a top 2 spot. After that it can try to use its store advantage and strategic partnerships (Google Editions) to attack Kindle.
  3. Nook 2 is not an impressive release. This is quite unlikely since Nook 1 was a very decent release and B&N is desperate – it’s quite possible that it produces a masterpiece in its desperation. At the minimum it is unlikely to produce a clunker since its fate depends on it.

The likeliest scenario seems to be a Nook 2 that is 90% of what the Kindle 3 is. 

How would B&N close the gap (perhaps even pull ahead)?  

There is one obvious option.

All Nook 2 roads lead to Google Editions

It’s not enough for B&N to match Kindle and Kindle Store. It needs a differentiator and a solid Kindle 3 means Nook 2 can’t be that differentiator – even if Nook 2 is exceptional it’ll be at or a little above the level of the Kindle 3.

Step in Google which is trying desperately to find a second revenue stream. Given the presence of Publishers even Google won’t be able to find a way to destroy all possibility of profit. Google Editions threatens to have the largest supply of ebooks (which may or may not include exclusive access to orphans it has adopted to subscribe out) and Google has the world’s biggest starting point (its search engine) and some amazing infrastructure – all that’s missing is a Nook to complete the ecosystem.

Will Google be able to step away from its tendency to blow up the profit stream in every business it enters (well, except Search)? Will B&N and Google be able to strike up a partnership deal?

Yes, it would. Yes, they would.

It’s pretty likely they will combine to form a very dangerous and rather dysfunctional partnership. It might not last because Google would replace Nook with its own device in a few years – However, it would probably last long enough to either make life difficult for Kindle or to give Google enough of a foothold that it becomes the #2 ebook seller.

Kindle 3 vs Nook 2 might actually be Kindle 3 vs Nook 2 + Google

Kindle 3 vs Nook 2 becomes a completely different battle if Google steps in to help Nook 2. Google brings a lot to the table -

  1. Books via Google Editions. If Google’s claims are valid it has 2 million published books and 1 million+ orphans (the latter depends on the settlement). It would mark the first time a store has more new books than the Kindle Store. 
  2. Search. Searches for eReaders and searches for eBooks.
  3. Money. Something in short supply at B&N.
  4. Branding. Google is very well-known outside the US while B&N is a relative unknown.
  5. Desperation. It’s hard to think of Google as desperate but it is – It has to find other revenue streams to make up for the fact that search growth has slowed down.
  6. Added ‘Openness’ and ‘Goodness’. Lots of people still buy the whole ‘open’ act and DRM-free and open advocates would flock to Nook 2.
  7. Google Books. It already gets (supposedly) 30 million people a month.
  8. Google’s Infrastructure and Cloud. B&N could easily offer free Internet and lots of other features by using Google’s dark fiber network and its data centers.

Nook would finally be on equal terms. It’s been a good ereader with a decent store and poor infrastructure. Nook 2 + Google would mean Nook competes with Kindle on almost equal footing in each of eReader, Store, and Infrastructure.

What would happen in Kindle 3 vs Nook 2 + Google?

There are 4 main possibilities -

  1. Google buys Nook. It could probably do this right now if it ponied up enough cash and promised Mr. Riggio it would go after Kindle with a chainsaw. If Google and B&N team up Nook is going to transfer over sooner or later.
  2. Google establishes its store and then introduces its own device. If Nook 2 is using Android and using Google Editions and dependent on Google Search and dependent on Google’s money then, at some point of time, Google is going to feel it might as well take over the device too. B&N knows this but it might not have another option so it’ll take the risk.
  3. Google+Nook 2 fails and Google exits ebooks. This is very unlikely since there’s too much money in ebooks for either Google or B&N to step away or give up.
  4. Google+Nook 2 gets a healthy 30% share. Amazon with the Kindle 3 has 60% and Nook 2, with Google’s help, gets and keeps 30%.

The main thing Google’s entry would do is turn it into a two-horse race where the second horse has the capability to catch up and even exceed the first horse if the first horse makes a mistake.

Since Kindle has a pretty big lead in both eReaders and eBooks and a lot of hard-core readers already own Kindles it’s not easy to envision Kindle losing out. However, Nook 2 and Google might get enough of the casual readers and enough of the remaining hardcore readers to get a firm hold on the #2 spot.

After that we would see a crazy fight – both Google and Amazon have shown they’re willing to throw away money for future profits and they both have a lot of money to throw away.

Is Nook 2 doomed if Google doesn’t step in?

It’s likely though not 100%.

B&N is trying to sell itself. It doesn’t have as many new books as Kindle Store and some of them are more expensive. It doesn’t really have infrastructure. There’s no big pile of money to be able to sustain losses while building up market share for Nook 2. It doesn’t have an App Store (to the best of our knowledge) and that might become a factor.

If you consider that Kindle 2 was the end-product of 5 years of development and Nook took 1 to 1.5 years it’s admirable how good of a job B&N did. It attacked every single Amazon weakness – ePub, lending, public domain books, library books, SD card, PDF support. It basically took almost every Kindle disadvantage created by Amazon’s focus on a closed system that locks in ebook revenue and attacked it.

That opportunity will always be there – any eReader willing to give up on the ebook revenue stream (either to Google or to user choice) will always have a shot at Amazon Kindle. However, that disregard for ebook revenue by itself can’t win the entire eReader war. There has to be a very good reader, a great store, and a great service to back up the freedom of choice and openness.

B&N is missing some of that with the Nook. It’ll miss some of that with the Nook 2 too so it needs circumstances to line up very favorably or it needs a savior (a perceived savior) like Google. Kindle 3 vs Nook 2 is going to be very, very interesting and this time it’s B&N that has the advantage of knowing what it’s going up against in advance.

Kindle 3 vs Nook 2 in August – Nook 2 at FCC

B&N seems ready to take on the Kindle 2 and perhaps set-up a Kindle 3 Vs Nook 2 showdown in August. It just filed details of the Nook 2 with the FCC (submission dates are shown as 14th and 16th July). Although B&N has asked for the 180 day confidentiality option some details did manage to slip through -

  1. Model Number for the Nook 2 is XHHBNRZ100-1. The model number for Nook 1 was  XHHBNRZ100. This hints it’s an incremental update of the existing Nook and not a completely separate model.
  2. Code names are CR Nook 3G and Bravo Delta 3G. Bravo was the code-name for the Nook – Does that mean the internal name for the Nook 2 is Nook 4? Perhaps CR is for Color – perhaps that’s wishful thinking, perhaps it just means Nook is in a different color.
  3. At first glance the only definite change seems to be a change in the 3G and WiFi cards.  
  4. One of the test documents talks about 3 possible orientations. This is really strange given the Nook didn’t have rotation support (plus the FCC documents for Nook have no mention of 3 orientations). How do you rotate 2 screens into 3 rotations? Is there an accelerometer involved?
  5. Another of the test documents talks about super fast download speeds using HSDPA and intelligent 3G wireless that switches off when not in use.

Thanks to UberGizmo for the Nook 2 scoop. You can also take a look at the original Nook 2 FCC documents – they’re all PDFs.

B&N made a mistake in their FCC application as it initially submitted the wrong 3G and WiFi radio part numbers. Does that mean there is yet another Nook in the works? That would explain a code-name of Nook 4 for the Nook 2.

What Nook 2 features is B&N hiding?

Let’s start off by saying that B&N might be hiding nothing – With Nook WiFi the only thing it didn’t ask to be sealed was the Nook WiFi name and the fact that there was no 3G. That ended up being the only difference between Nook WiFi and Nook 1.

If B&N is doing the same this time then the only change between Nook 2 and Nook 1 might be the frequencies they work at -

  1. Nook 1 had a triband UMTS/HSPA 3G radio that worked at 850, 1900, and 2100 MHz. It also had a WiFi card.
  2. Nook 2 has a Sierra Wireless MC8201V wireless modem that works at 850 and 1900 MHz and supports GSM (GPRS, EGPRS (EDGE)) and UMTS WCDMA/HDSPA (FDD Band II, FDD Band V). For WiFi it has the M/N PW621-M chipset from Cybertran which supports 802.11 b/g.

Another hint that Nook 2 might look just like Nook 1 is that in one of the documents submitted B&N claims that a picture of the Nook 1 (see section 1. Executive Summary for picture) represents the new Nook 2. If that’s right then it’s probably the exact same device with minor changes.

Here’s what it has asked the FCC to hide -

  1. Schematic Diagram and Block Diagram.
  2. Theory of Operation, Tune-up procedure, and Parts List.
  3. Antenna Specification.
  4. External and Internal Photos, and Test Setup photos.
  5. User Manual.

The internal and external photos would be pretty revealing as would the User Manual.

Interesting Things that hint B&N might be hiding something

Well, there are very few oddities -

  1. One of the test documents (WiFi testing results) talks about Nook 2 having three orientations with the third orientation differing in power output from the other two.
  2. There’s no clear reason why there’s a change in 3G and WiFi modems. There are just two possibilities – cutting costs, adding support for outside the US. It’d be a strange way to go about it as only a small group of countries support 850/1900 apart from the US – They include Canada, Mexico, Australia, and Brazil (AT&T forums). 
  3. Will the Nook 2 come with the new eInk Pearl screen – Is that why it is hiding the screen photos and components list?

Chances are pretty high Nook 2 is just a cheaper version of Nook 1. At the same time there’s no way B&N would release a new Nook without the new eInk Pearl screen.

Other Interesting Things

The SAR Evaluation document has a bunch of details including download speeds -

  1. On AT&T’s HSDPA network download speeds will usually be 700 kbps to 1.7 Mbps. Upload speeds of 500 kbps to 1.2 Mbps.
  2. On UMTS networks download speeds will usually be 220 to  320 kbps.
  3. The download speeds for  EDGE and GPRS are shown as 100 to 140 kbps and 28 to 60 kbps.

The documents mention that files larger than 10 MB are only downloadable via WiFi or USB. Then there’s data on book download times – Time taken ranged from an average of 10.18 seconds for a .25 MB file (Tipping Point) to 49.03 seconds for a 4.05 MB file (Allergies).

B&N share lots of details -

  1. Nook owners downloaded 89.6% ebooks, 8.6% newspapers, and 1.8% magazines. Average download time was 16.3 seconds. 
  2. They have a detailed table of time taken and wireless usage time for turning on Nook, searching B&N ebook store, and buying an ebook. 
  3. The 3G wireless has power saving and turns off automatically when not needed.

The eReader rumors this year have focused on Kindle 3 arriving in August – yet it’s the Nook 2 that’s landed at the FCC. It certainly suggests that August might see a Kindle 3 vs Nook 2 show-down – Unfortunately, Kindle 3 and Nook 2 details are still scarce.

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