iPad 2 and implications for Kindle

First, let’s take a look at the iPad 2 announcement call.

Interesting Things from the iPad 2 announcement

  1. Steve Jobs presented it.
  2. iBooks has hit over 100 million books downloaded. Random House coming to iBooks.
  3. 200 million Credit Card accounts across iTunes, App Store, and iBooks.
  4. 100 million iPhones sold.
  5. 15 million iPads sold. $9.5 billion in 2010. Greater than 90% market share. Samsung not doing well.
  6. iPod, iPhone, and iPad as the three pillars of Apple post-PC. Are Apple conceding they lost the PC wars? Why focus on post-PC?
  7. 65,000 apps for the iPad. 100 apps for Honeycomb Tablets.
  8. $2 billion paid out to developers selling apps in the App Store.

All very impressive. Just show iPad 2 already.

The iPad 2

  1. All new design. Completely new.
  2. New, faster chip. The A5. Same power usage as A4.
  3. Dual core processor. 9 times faster graphic performance. Apple does know how to explain things simply – surprising that very few other tech companies use language like this.
  4. Front and rear facing cameras.
  5. Built-in gyroscope.
  6. A third thinner than iPad 1. iPad 2 is 8.8 mm thin.
  7. Lighter at 1.3 pounds.
  8. Same 10 hour battery life.
  9. Available in black and white and for Verizon and AT&T.
  10. The same exact prices – starting at $499. That’s really, really disappointing. You have got to be joking – After selling 15 million iPads you still couldn’t cut prices. This pretty much means little to no threat to Kindle or Nook Color. The lighter weight makes things a bit difficult but the price is a huge barrier.
  11. Ships on March 11th. Wow, that’s quick. On March 25th it ships in 26 more countries, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and UK.

It’s not really all that much of an improvement. It’s better than the iPad, and it will definitely be hard for rival companies to catch up with the iPad 2. However, the price is the same. The dual-core processor and the dual cameras are the only things that scream out at you as big additions.

iPad 2 Software and more 

  1. Accessories – HDMI video out with up to 1080p for $39.
  2. Smart covers that bend and fold around iPad 2 and use magnets and can be used as a stand. They cover just the front. The cover is $39 for polyurethane and $69 for leather. For covers that only cover the front. Strange.
  3. iOS 4.3 comes with faster Safari performance. Some things I have no idea about – iTunes home sharing, AirPlay improvements, mute switch can now be used for orientation.
  4. PhotoBooth for iPad 2. It’s like one of those apps that lets you make funny faces. Don’t really know what to say.
  5. FaceTime. I guess we’ll be seeing millions of ads for this soon enough.
  6. iMovie. Share your videos in HD and it has multitrack audio recording. The rear facing camera has HD video recording at 30 fps.

Implications for Kindle

At $499 for the cheapest iPad 2, there aren’t very many implications.

Size is now lighter at 1.3 pounds, but the Kindle is still much lighter at 8.7 ounces. iPad 2 is thinner at 8.8 mm but it’s the largeness of it that was the issue, not the thickness. iBooks getting Random House is a bit of a threat but Random House is moving to the Agency Model and committing mini-suicide – So, again it’s not as big an issue as it might have been.

Note: The 30% tax is a big deal – However, that affects Kindle for iPhone, and not Kindle.

There really aren’t any big threats for the Kindle here. Rival Tablet makers and the Kindle Tablet now have a higher bar to meet. For the Kindle there’s no tangible threat here.

Implications for Nook Color

Again, the $499 price makes iPad 2 not much of a threat to Nook Color. At $249 (till tomorrow morning $200 at B&N’s eBay shop with a coupon code) the Nook Color is still much better value for money.

It’s a bit of a disappointment. If Apple had priced iPad 2 at $399 it would have forced Amazon and B&N to cut the prices of Kindle and Nook Color. Now we’ll have to wait for some other catalyst.

Apart from the dual core processor and the dual cameras, don’t really see anything worth calling a conference for. Here’s the screen (from the iPad 2 specs page) –

  • 9.7-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit glossy widescreen Multi-Touch display with IPS technology
  • 1024-by-768-pixel resolution at 132 pixels per inch (ppi)
  • Fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating

An improvement on the iPad, and not much of a threat to Kindle and Nook Color.

What happens to Kindle, eReaders if iPad 2 uses Mirasol?

Thanks to OIC for this comment –

i think an iPad with mirasol can kill all competitors. There are only two thing iPad doesn’t have, that is low power usage and free internet

It brings up an interesting question –

What happens to the Kindle, and to eReaders, if the iPad 2 comes with a Qualcomm Mirasol screen?

What does a Mirasol screen add to the iPad 2?

Actually, quite a lot –

  1. It’s ePaper and it makes the screen very readable – no backlight, very good pixel density, very good clarity.
  2. It’s readable in sunlight and bright light.
  3. It makes the battery life amazing. 
  4. You don’t lose color. You could use IR like Sony did to preserve touch.
  5. You have a cool, new technology. In the hands of Steve Jobs it would turn into the coolest thing created since advertising.

These are considerable advantages. The problem is that there are also downsides.

Downsides of using Mirasol

When we look at what Apple’s needs for an iPad 2 screen are, we find that Mirasol has quite a few disadvantages –

  1. The color is not as bright as LCD, and Mirasol powered iPad 2s would look terrible compared to LCD and Amoled displays. 
  2. The price is going to be higher than for LCD screens of comparable size.
  3. The refresh speed might not be enough for games and movies. Yes, Qualcomm says it’s very good – But it’s nothing close to what you can get with LCDs, and is likely to be insufficient for movies.
  4. Qualcomm probably can’t manufacture enough Mirasol displays to meet Apple’s needs. iPad 2 might sell a few million units a month – there’s no way enough Mirasol displays can be made. Additionally, the new Mirasol screen production facility doesn’t go live until 2012 – so there would be screen supply problems for a whole year.
  5. Mirasol displays aren’t tested with customers or in production devices. The last thing Apple wants is to use untested screens on devices that go out to millions of people – if anything goes wrong Apple would have to recall everything.
  6. Apple would have to figure out a way to create a touch screen with the same level of smoothness as the iPad screen. Mirasol are just figuring out their screen.
  7. Mirasol would probably not be able to deliver the level of pixel resolution Apple wants – so no Retina display.
  8. No backlight for reading at night or in low light conditions. A back-light is especially important in a device that is primarily meant for surfing, playing games, and watching movies.

That’s a lot of negatives. In fact, the negatives make it highly unlikely that Apple will use Mirasol for the iPad 2.

Still, it’s worth pondering what the impact might be.

What would happen to Kindle, eReaders if a Mirasol iPad 2 were released?

Let’s say Apple disregards all the negatives and releases a Mirasol powered iPad 2. We get a very interesting situation –

  1. iPad 2 probably loses on price and wins on value for money. Let’s say it’s $350. Kindle 3 would be in a bit of trouble. Kindle WiFi would be fine. Nook Color would be in quite a bit of trouble.
  2. iPad 2 would probably not have free Internet or free store browsing.
  3. No more ‘readable in sunlight’ advantage for eInk Readers.
  4. No more ‘easier on the eyes’ advantage for eInk Readers.
  5. iPad 2 would have color – it would be the only ePaper based eReader with a color screen.
  6. Steve Jobs would find a way to turn Mirasol into the second coming of Christ.
  7. All the disadvantages of Mirasol are only disadvantages when compared against LCD tablets. When compared against eInk eReaders they turn into advantages – color, refresh speed, newness, and so forth.
  8. Perhaps most importantly, Mirasol is NEW and SHINY and LATEST GENERATION. It’s the future of ePaper and eInk, and it instantly makes all other eReaders seem ancient. It’s not even a difference like eInk Pearl which is hard to quantify – It’s a painfully obvious difference i.e. color vs black and white.

If Apple were to release a Mirasol powered eReader it would instantly take the #1 position in eReader sales. Most of the people looking to buy a dedicated eReader would prefer Apple’s eReader because it would have color, the newest technology, allow all reading apps, and also support library books.

If Apple were to release a Mirasol powered iPad 2, all eReader companies would get thrown into crisis mode

Apart from the price factor, there wouldn’t be any reason to pick an eInk powered eReader over a Mirasol powered eReader. A Mirasol powered iPad 2 would be just as good for reading as any other eReader – After all, it is ePaper.

It would force every other eReader maker to release color eInk powered eReaders. In the interim they would have to cut prices to below $100 to avoid a total destruction of sales.

Chances are eReader companies won’t have to go through such a crisis.

Will Apple use a color eReader screen on a device that is a Do-Everything?

Apple gets two huge non-reading related advantages if it uses Mirasol – great battery life, readability in sunlight. It gets two huge reading-related advantages – a screen that is easier on the eyes, a screen that is like ink on paper.

At the same time it makes a lot of compromises – inferior touch, inferior color, slower screen refresh speed, an untested technology, no Retina display marketing magic, higher screen costs, higher production risks, no backlight.

For all the people buying iPad 2 for non-reading related reasons, which is probably 80% or more of people buying the iPad 2, that’s a bad trade-off. It makes no sense to upset 80% of your customers.

It’s highly unlikely Apple will build iPad 2 using Mirasol screens. We are, however, left with one interesting possibility – Apple might be building a non-iPad reading tablet.

The 10% chance Apple will release a Reading Tablet

Apple sold 10 million plus iPads last year. At the same time Amazon might have sold between 5 and 8 million Kindles (just guesses and rumors).

Steve Jobs might be thinking – People would get library books. People would get a choice of reading apps. They would get color and animated page turns and a device that does more than just read. Why not make an iReader along with the iPad 2?

He might just have an iReader ready to launch alongside the iPad 2. The iPad 2 follows up on the iPad. The iReader has a 7″ screen, is closer to Nook Color than to Kindle, and targets the eReader market.

There are rumors that iPad 2 focuses more on reading. There are even rumors that it has a special screen that reduces glare. What if the rumors are wrong and all the reading-focused features are being built into a separate Apple Reading Tablet?

Nook Color vs Kindle vs iPad – comparison of the reading experience

This Nook Color vs Kindle vs iPad comparison will only look at the reading experience – what it’s like to read books on each.

The Kindle has an eInk Pearl screen and is built solely for reading – So it has a natural advantage, and is expected to have the best reading experience. 

We simply want to see what the trade-offs in the reading experience are, when you pick a multi-purpose device – whether it’s a ‘Reading Tablet’ like Nook Color or an ‘Everything Tablet’ like the iPad.

The Reading Experience on Kindle, Nook Color, and iPad

What’s it like to read a book on each of these three?

Reading on the Kindle is like reading a book

Kindle provides the best reading experience. A solid 9 stars out of 10. It’s a lot of fun and it’s ideally suited for reading books.

Reading on the Kindle offers a few solid advantages – eInk looks like print on paper, there’s no backlight shining into your eyes, you can read in bright light and direct sunlight, it doesn’t hurt or bother your eyes, amazing battery life, compactness, low weight.

Since the Kindle is built for reading from the ground-up, it also offers other advantages – a lack of distractions, free Internet reference via free 3G, in-built dictionary, a text to speech feature that works quite well, a great Kindle Book Store, reading across all your devices.

The two things Kindle specializes in are – reading books, buying books. Those are the only two things it specializes in.

Main advantages of choosing the Kindle will be that you will get the absolute best reading experience, you’ll read more than you used to, and you’ll have to spend less on the Kindle itself.

There are also several disadvantages – there’s no touch-screen so it’s a bit awkward to move around and enter notes and highlights, there’s no color so illustrations don’t stand out, the 6″ screen isn’t ideal as it’s a bit smaller than a paperback page, the support for PDFs is spotty.

Reading on Nook Color is like reading a book-sized LCD

Nook Color offers a decent reading experience – 7.5 stars out of 10. It’s quite fun and is adequate for reading books, surfing websites, and for some PDFs. It can be a bit tiring on your eyes.

By creating a ‘Reading Tablet’ B&N does a few great things – keeps the focus on reading, keeps the weight reasonable, delivers a decent sized device with a good 7″ screen, delivers color and touch, delivers a screen with a back-light, delivers a $249 Reading Tablet that is great value for money.

It also creates a few problems – it’s a LCD screen and despite the anti-glare layer it can’t be used in bright light or direct sunlight, battery life is low at 8 hours with wireless off, it’s not easy on the eyes, it’s not suited for long-form reading, at night the bright glow will keep you awake longer.

At the moment Nook Color specializes in – reading (to quite an extent), buying books, web surfing (to an extent),  being a tablet (to a limited extent). Nook Color doesn’t specialize in doing movies and games. The Nook App Store might cause Nook Color to evolve into a full-fledged Tablet – However, it’s far likelier that the focus will remain on reading.

Main advantage of choosing Nook Color will be that you’ll get a device with a focus on reading, which provides a decent reading experience, and still lets you do things other than reading. It’s more of a Tablet than an eReader – Yet, it provides a decent reading experience.

Reading on iPad is like reading from a rather large, hardcover-sized LCD

iPad delivers a reading experience that is somewhere between 6 and 7.5 stars out of 10. It’s well suited for PDFs, magazines, newspapers, and websites. It’s decentish for reading books. It’s a bit tiring on your hands and eyes.

There are two main drawbacks – the awkward size and the LCD. Depending on what you think of the size you’ll either hate it (6 stars) or find it quite enjoyable (7.5 stars).

iPad does some things very well – it provides color and touch, it provides a large 10″ screen, it provides lots of apps so you’ll find an app no matter what type of reading you’re looking for, it provides both Kindle for iPad and Nook for iPad, it handles things well (great usability), it provides a backlight.

iPad also has some disadvantages – LCDs tend to tire the eyes, there are tens of thousands of distractions, there isn’t really anything in the iPad to encourage reading, the size and weight are huge problems, it’s unreadable in bright light and sunlight, it’s expensive.

iPad specializes in – doing everything, letting you read from any store, letting you get a decentish reading experience, letting you read PDFs and other documents that benefit from the large 10″ screen.

Main advantages of choosing iPad will be that you’ll be able to read without losing the ability to do 10,000 other things, the screen size will be big enough for most types of reading, and you’ll get a decent reading experience.

Nook Color vs Kindle vs iPad – Which would you choose if they were side by side?

Usually, the Kindle. If you had all three side-by-side, and had to choose one to read on, you’d always choose the Kindle for books and long form reading.

The Nook Color would be your choice if you wanted to read at night, and didn’t have the Kindle’s neat ‘cover with built-in reading light’. It would also be your choice for books in color, illustrated books, and perhaps even magazines. Nook Color is also quite good for browsing websites.

iPad would be your choice for anything that requires a larger screen – PDFs, newspapers, magazines. iPad might be a slightly better choice than Nook Color for websites.

It’s quite an easy decision. Kindle for books. Nook Color if you’d like color, or can’t handle the large size of the iPad. iPad if you end up reading a lot of PDFs and magazines, and don’t mind the awkward size.

Areas Nook Color, Kindle, and iPad win – The long, complicated list

Let’s go through all the areas of comparison we can think of beyond reading experience –

  1. Screen Size – iPad is better than Nook Color, which is slightly better than Kindle.
  2. Color – iPad and Nook Color tie. Kindle doesn’t have color. 
  3. Pixel Density – Kindle and Nook Color are close at around 167 pixel per inch. iPad is quite a bit behind.
  4. Battery Life – Kindle wins by a mile. iPad beats Nook Color.
  5. Weight and Size – Kindle wins. Nook is within striking distance. iPad fails as it’s heavy and awkward.
  6. Memory and Memory Expansion – Nook is best with a memory card slot. iPad is next as it has a lot of memory. Kindle is last as it only has 4 GB memory.
  7. Store – Kindle Store is best but iPad wins because it has both Kindle Store and Nook Store.
  8. Reading Software – Kindle is best. Nook Color’s reading software is very well done. iPad has both Kindle and Nook reading apps – However, they aren’t as good as the real thing.
  9. ePub – Kindle fails.
  10. Library Books – Kindle fails.
  11. PDF support – iPad has the best PDF support. iPad’s screen size also helps. Kindle and Nook are quite a bit behind.
  12. Lack of distractions – Kindle wins. The other two aren’t suited for focusing on reading though Nook Color is much better.
  13. Surfing – iPad is best, Nook Color is close, and Kindle is last.
  14. Value for Money – Kindle WiFi and Nook Color are probably tied. Kindle and iPad are next. Also depends on what you value – If you don’t value reading, you might not value the Kindle at all.
  15. Price – Kindle WiFi is just $139, Kindle 3 is $189, Nook Color is $249, and iPad is $499.
  16. Customer Service – Amazon, without a doubt. Apple and B&N are decent too.
  17. Infrastructure and Support – All three do a decent job.
  18. Apps – iPad easily wins. Kindle has a fledgling App Store. Nook App Store isn’t even open yet.
  19. Physical Keyboard – Kindle wins. The other two only have virtual keyboards.
  20. Ease of Use – Kindle wins.
  21. Openness – Neither of the three is open. Nook Color probably wins as it’s based on Android and you can easily root it.

As you can clearly see – Each of Kindle, Nook Color, and iPad has its strengths and weaknesses.

Nook Color vs Kindle vs iPad – Who this Nook Color vs Kindle vs iPad comparison is not for

There are three groups this review is not for.

People who think reading isn’t worth a separate device

If you feel that reading isn’t worth a dedicated device, or that reading doesn’t add value, then you should definitely get a Tablet. If a device has to be usable for more than just reading, then an Android Tablet or the iPad would be a good choice.

The LCD compatibles

There are some people who are naturally suited to LCD screens. If your eyes don’t get tired reading a book from a LCD screen, if bright light at night doesn’t affect you, or if you can’t ever imagine any screen being better for reading than a LCD screen – pick a Reading Tablet or a Tablet. An eReader would be a waste for you.

Apple people

If you feel Apple products match your aesthetic sensibilities, and are the best products ever made – get the iPad. The iPad is a decent enough reading device.

Kindle vs Nook Color vs iPad – Regret Minimization

Will you regret buying a $139 Kindle WiFi or a $189 Kindle 3?

If you love to read, or like to read, or want to read more – Never.

In every other case – probably.

If you’re buying a Kindle for PDFs or magazines – Probably.

Will you regret buying a $249 Nook Color?

If you want the absolute best reading experience – Yes. The minute you see eInk Pearl on a Kindle 3, or Sony Reader 350, you’ll wish you’d chosen a device with an eInk Pearl screen.

If you are LCD incompatible i.e. you can’t read for long stretches on LCD screens – Yes.

If you want a device focused on reading that can also do other things – Never.

If you want a cheap Android Tablet, and are comfortable rooting your Nook Color – Never.

Will you regret buying a $499 iPad?

It’s very hard to say. The iPad is very hit or miss – my recommendation would be to try it out first. If you’re planning on reading books on it – actually read a book on it before buying it.

If you want the best reading experience, or if you’re LCD incompatible – Yes, you’ll regret buying the iPad.

If you’re more of a creator than a consumer – Yes.

If you want a device that does more than just read – No, you’ll love the iPad.

In almost every other case – No. You may or may not get your money’s worth, as iPad is a very hit or miss device – However, it’s unlikely you’ll regret it.

Kindle has the absolute best reading experience, Nook Color has the most potential

The Kindle and Nook Color are both focused on reading, and will help you read more. Kindle sacrifices everything else to bring you a 9/10 reading experience. Nook Color accommodates your other interests/pursuits while bringing you a 7.5/10 reading experience.

Kindle and Nook Color are probably the best devices to go with if reading is your first priority, or even if it’s a top 3 priority. If reading isn’t a top 3 priority, or isn’t a priority at all, then it’s best to go with the iPad.