You need something other than a Tablet to beat the iPad

The same way that Apple needed the whole concept of ‘post-PC’ to effectively fight Windows. None of the aesthetic superiority or attention-to-detail of MacOS mattered – Windows just dominated the PC landscape. Neither Linux nor MacOS nor anything else made significant inroads because they were running a race which Microsoft had too much of a lead in.

All the companies making Tablets to compete with the iPad need to understand that they don’t have to run the race according to Apple’s preferred rules. It would be the stupidest thing to keep trying to make Tablets when your competitor has a HUGE lead and also has a ton of patents.

Instead, use something like the Reading Tablet or a new breed of laptops or non-restricted Netbooks or even eReaders to fight against the iPad.

First-Mover Advantage is hard to beat

There’s a reason why Windows and Office are still around and still destroying the competition.

Part of it is that no one actually made anything that works as well for normal users. Part of it is that Microsoft has so many advantages (experience, partnerships, money, lawyers, piece of mind, expertise) that it’s really tough to catch up.

If the Justice Department hadn’t stepped in the domination would be even more obvious.

What Apple did is perfect. And that’s what people trying to beat Apple should do.

First, you create a niche for yourself you can dominate (which is what Amazon has done with Kindle and B&N has done with Nook Color and countless other companies have done in countless other areas). Then you expand it. You let this new ‘concept/product/idea/lifestyle/association’ become stronger.

That’s the key step – Expand what you already dominate. Focus on your core competency.

Companies right now are forgetting they are karate world champions and trying to fight Apple in taekwondo and getting whipped. If you are a tenth belt in Karate then you don’t want to say yes to a wrestling match with the Olympic Champion. It makes no sense. Apple eventually figured it out. Now other companies need to do the same.

Apple started off with mp3 players. Not very magical and revolutionary. No matter how much you might try to glamorize it they were just mp3 players. But that’s what was needed to build up to a level where you could take on Microsoft’s dominance (it didn’t hurt that Bill Gates retired).

Then more and more and eventually the iPhone and the iPad. Never taking on the Giant head-on because you don’t get into a sword fight with Goliath. If David had picked up a sword and run straight at Goliath we wouldn’t know who he was.

Patents make things Tougher

The lesson Apple is teaching Samsung in Patent Law should be a stark reminder that chasing the iPad via a Tablet isn’t optimal.

You can’t use ‘app store’ as the name of your app store. You can’t have a rectangular, thin Tablet because that means it’s a copy of the iPad. You can’t use pinch to zoom because it’s patented. The list goes on. Every single thing about Tablets is patented and most of these patents lie with companies dying to carve out a piece of your flesh.

Sidestep that and make a device where you don’t have to worry about lawyers all the time.

Attack the Weaknesses, not the Strengths

Netbooks were eating up the laptop market. Then manufacturers and Microsoft put in all sorts of pointless restrictions – you couldn’t have more than 1GB memory if you wanted X price. All sorts of anti-customer nonsense.

Netbook manufacturers stunted netbooks to save laptops. Perhaps it’s time to stop handicapping netbooks and laptops and let them evolve naturally.

Cloning the iPad won’t work because you’re trying to fight it on its strengths. A device that is trying to be a ‘post-PC’ device just because Apple the Pied Piper is claiming PC devices are dead won’t work. It’s in Apple’s interest to claim this. Manufacturers need to stop playing into Apple’s hands.

There is no such thing as ‘post PC’. It’s all made-up. If manufacturers understand that, then half the battle is won.

The Reading Tablet is different enough, but a pure Kindle would be better

Nook Color has done well enough to show that a Reading Tablet can survive and thrive. The Kindle has done well enough to show that the iPad is not the destroyer of all devices.

Let both grow and sooner or later they will each get a shot at bringing down the iPad. But not if they are treated as a preliminary step before making a full tablet. They are the end in themselves.

The aim of the Kindle isn’t to morph into an iPad Clone and the aim of the Nook Color isn’t to become NookPad. They will sell tens of millions of units a year as they are. They just need to keep improving.

That’s the key thing – Nook Color and Kindle are an end in themselves. They can fight and win by being themselves and that’s what they need to do. Amazon and B&N should feel free to introduce their own iPad clones but it would be sad to see them forget that it’s far easier to flourish in an area which you already dominate.

It’s an idea war and Apple’s biggest strength (when it comes to its competitors) is its ability to convince them to fight the battle it wants to fight, on the terms it wants. If Amazon and B&N and Google and Facebook and Microsoft can stick with what’s working for them (that’s key – it’s working) then they will keep flourishing and eventually take down Apple (because let’s admit it – without Steve Jobs Apple is a shell and loses 90% of its Reality Distortion Field).

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.

Kindle vs Nook Color vs iPad

How does the Kindle 3 compare with the Nook Color and the iPad - Who wins Kindle vs Nook Color vs iPad?

The Kindle vs Nook Color vs iPad question was brought up by Vicki and here’s my answer -

  1. The Kindle is perfect for anyone who reads more than 1 book a month or wants a device dedicated to reading. It’s also great for anyone who wants to read more than they currently do.
  2. Nook Color seems to be perfect for someone who reads 1 or 2 books a month and wants a device that’s focused on reading and can also do other things. If the Kindle is a superstar slugger who’s a liability in the field the Nook Color is a pretty solid hitter who can also field quite well.
  3. The iPad is great for someone who wants a device specialized for TV and games and movies and that can also be used for reading. Basically, an above replacement level hitter who isn’t going to put up the numbers the solid hitter will (Nook Color) and definitely not the numbers the star slugger will (Kindle 3) - However, he’s a spectacular fielder and can play almost any position. Plus quite a few people think he looks like Cole Hamels and has Ken Griffey Junior’s personality.

Let’s flesh it out a bit and drop the baseball analogy.

Disclaimer: My experience with Nook Color is limited to reading reviews. Kindle and iPad, on the other hand, am very familiar with.

Kindle is a reading superstar device that does little else

The Kindle is basically a reading superstar – It sacrifices everything else for reading.

It has all the features you would want in a reading device -

  1. Crisp eInk Pearl screen that looks like print on paper.
  2. eInk screen that’s easy on the eyes. Since it has no back-light it doesn’t interfere with your sleep patterns like back-lit screens.
  3. Great battery life – up to a month with wireless off, 2 weeks with wireless on.
  4. It’s built from the ground-up for readers. Almost every decision was made keeping readers in mind.
  5. There’s free Internet access, a decentish browser, free Kindle store browsing, and an in-built dictionary. Note: Kindle WiFi doesn’t have 3G and thus no free Internet Access - you must have WiFi access to get store browsing and Internet browsing.
  6. There are free book downloads in 60 seconds using Amazon’s Whispernet Network.
  7. It’s light and compact and you can read while holding it in one hand.

The litmus test is whether you read 1 or more books a month. If you don’t the Kindle is a bad choice.

If you love to read or would like to read more you should get a Kindle. At $139 for the Kindle WiFi and $189 for the Kindle 3 it’s a great deal.

Kindle caveats

You might fall into the category of people who love LCDs and are completely unbothered by LCD screens – the LCD-compatibles. In that case the Kindle only offers freedom from distraction, lower weight, greater battery life, reading focused features, and other reading related benefits.

The biggest benefit of the Kindle is the eInk screen and if after trying it out you feel LCD is better or just as good then you might be better off with a Nook Color or an iPad.

Kindle also has some other flaws – no ePub support and thus no support for library books, the only DRMed books you can read are ones from Amazon, the Kindle App Store is just starting off so there are very few apps, PDF support isn’t great, and the 6″ screen size isn’t ideal for PDFs or newspapers.

If you don’t want a dedicated reading device then Kindle is not the right choice.

Nook Color is a reading tablet that doubles up as a semi-Android Tablet

Nook Color (and this is all based on Nook Color reviews) is basically an Android based Tablet that B&N is trying to mold into a reading tablet -

  1. It’s focused on reading but not dedicated to it. That means you can read and also stream music (Pandora) and even watch movies (some formats work better than others).  
  2. It has great screen resolution – better than iPad and a tiny bit better than Kindle. 
  3. It uses a special layer above the LCD screen to reduce glare - opinions on the effectiveness are mixed.
  4. It has color and touch so magazines, children’s books, and comics look great.  
  5. It will build its own App Store and limit apps to reading related apps and perhaps some of the more popular apps.

You basically get a focus on reading which iPad lacks. B&N will try and ensure the focus on reading is preserved by limiting what apps are available and by adding touches like the special layer over the screen that is suppoed to reduce glare and enhance readability.

You are free from distractions – to a certain extent. You also, and this is just a guess, probably get a pretty decent reading experience. Not as good as the Kindle but definitely better than the iPad.

The 7″ screen is also much better for reading than the iPad’s awkwardly large 10″ screen and the slightly smaller 6″ Kindle screen.

B&N’s Nook Color offers two very enticing possibilities to two very different groups of customers -

  • If you want a reading tablet then you can stick with B&N’s tightly reviewed app store which will supposedly only allow reading related apps. The device itself is build around reading which also helps a lot.  
  • If you want a cheap Android tablet then you can either hope a decent number of general apps make it in or you can root the Nook Color and get all the apps from the Android app store.

Basically, if you want a reading device that’s focused on reading and can also do other things then the Nook Color is perfect for you. It’s also a great choice if you want a cheap Android tablet.

At $249 the Nook Color appears to be (will confirm this over the next few days) an incredible value proposition. It’s as good a deal as Kindle WiFi and, arguably, delivers more value for money than Kindle and iPad.

Things to Know before you buy the Nook Color

If you are a reading purist or read more than 2 books a month the Kindle 3 is a much better choice.

It’s B&N’s first attempt to make a ‘reading tablet’. The foundation is an Android tablet so there are compromises – it’s not as easy on the eyes as eInk (unless you’re LCD-compatible), it isn’t readable in direct sunlight or in bright light settings, it doesn’t have great battery life (8 hours with wireless off).

The iPad is much better if you’d like one or more of the following – tens of thousands of non-reading related apps, the ability to watch TV and movies, a device specialized for playing games, the option to use your reading device as a status indicator.

If you read just one or two books a year or less, then the Nook Color is probably not the right choice – unless you are tech-savvy enough to root it and use it as a mini-Android Tablet.

iPad as the do-everything device that also lets you read

If reading is not a top 3 passion for you then the iPad probably trumps the Nook Color and Kindle as your ideal reading device.

Here’s what the iPad offers -

  1. A very well polished, good-looking tablet that extends the iOS to a 10″ tablet computer.
  2. A device optimized for games and movies and TV.
  3. A bright color screen with multi-touch support, decent screen resolution, and a powerful back-light. 
  4. Reading Apps from all the major companies – It’s the only device in the Kindle vs Nook Color vs iPad comparison that lets you access Kindle books and Nook books.
  5. Apps to add PDF support and ways to add support for library books.
  6. Lots and lots of apps and ways to pass the time. It’s the ultimate time-pass/consumption/entertainment device.
  7. A decent price for an Apple device - $499 for the lowest capacity WiFi version. It is an Apple product and you get some Steve Jobs RDF pixie dust sprinkled over it which works on nearly everyone.

The iPad is impressive. It does nearly everything you ask it to and it can be used as a reading device. If you’re LCD-compatible and not easily distracted you can even argue that it’s the best dedicated reading device on the planet capable of playing Angry Birds.

If you hardly read or if TV and games are more important to you than reading or if you think Steve Jobs walks on water (though in his case it’s purified, crystallized, triple-distilled, revolutionarily pure iWater) then the iPad is a no-brainer.

iPad is the only device in the Kindle vs Nook Color vs iPad comparison that is great at everything other than reading. Which brings us to the caveats.

iPad isn’t perfect – especially if you like to read and aren’t LCD-compatible

If you’re looking for a device you can read regularly on there are a few things to watch out for -

  1. If you’re not LCD-compatible you’re not going to like reading on an iPad very much. It hurts the eyes and can mess with sleep patterns and it’s not got the screen contrast that Kindle and Nook Color do.
  2. It’s heavy and large and awkward. One handed reading is out of the question and even two-handed reading gets tiring. 
  3. It’s relatively expensive at $499 and then you have add-ons like screen protectors and cases and docks and special cables.
  4. Battery life is good at 12 hours and better than Nook Color - However, it’s rather low compared to the Kindle’s healthy 2 to 4 weeks battery life.  
  5. You’ll probably read less than you think – there are lots of distractions and it’s better for TV and games than for reading. The path of least resistance will be Not Reading.
  6. It’s the opposite of open. You can only get software from the Apple App Store. There are no USB ports.
  7. It’s a very hit or miss device - For every 2 people who love it there’s 1 who can’t find any use for it.

Basically, the iPad is not a good option if you’re looking for a device primarily for reading – unless you’re LCD compatible. It’s probably a very good option if you’re looking for a device that you can read on once in a while. If you’re reading more than a few books a year it’s not a good choice.

Kindle vs Nook Color vs iPad – 3 very different devices

The Kindle is your best bet if you read a lot or would like to read more. Nook Color is your best bet if you want a reading device that can also do other things well.

iPad is your best bet if you don’t really read much or are LCD-compatible. Kindle and Nook Color are focused on reading while the iPad treats reading like one out of a dozen side-features - it isn’t really optimized for reading.

Kindle vs Nook Color vs iPad comes down to how much you read and how much you would like to read. The Kindle and Nook Color are both good choices if you love/like to read - Kindle if you read more than 2 books a month and Nook Color if you read more than a few books a year but less than 2 a month.

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