Nook Color, Kindle Fire to Get Pre-Holiday UpdatesDecember 12, 2011 12:05 pm ·
As the two tablet competitors gear up for a heated holiday season, Barnes & Noble and Amazon both announced key updates for two tablets that are all but certain to be a huge draw to value hunters. Turning its attention back to its original tablet, Barnes & Noble decided the year-old Nook Color warranted a pre-holiday boost. As for Amazon, the Kindle Fire is scheduled to get a software update that will address some of the concerns raised after its debut.
Nook Color Gets Netflix, Comics, and More
Priced at $199, the Nook Color could feasibly be a more suitable competitor for the Kindle Fire than would be the newer, faster Nook Tablet. Also equipped with 8GB of memory, an 8-hour-per-charge battery life, and a 512 MB processor, the Nook Color is quite clearly what Amazon was targeting when it released the Kindle Fire. And with both 7-inch tablets attractively priced at $199, I would argue that this is the matchup to watch during the busiest shopping season of the year.
As for the actual update, Barnes & Noble is giving the Nook Color a few new features, which will ultimately serve to further distinguish the tablet from its e-reader siblings. In its largest upgrade to date, the Nook Color will now support Netflix and Flixter; however, it is important to note that although the apps for these services are free, the fees for access to the actual content still apply.
In addition to these upgrades, the original B&N tablet also gained access to two new Nook services. The first service, Nook Comics, is said to provide “the largest collection of Marvel graphic novels,” which, consistent with its name, the Nook Color is able to display in full color for its users.
The other new service is PagePerfect Nook Books. More of a compatibility upgrade than an actual new service, PagePerfect will provide publishers with a little more control over the way that books are formatted and displayed on the Color’s 7-inch screen. According to Barnes & Noble, “carefully crafted” Nook books provided by PagePerfect will help to preserve the same “precision and beauty” encountered in traditional print books.
“Barnes & Noble is officially a major player in the tablet scene,” commented TechCrunch’s Matt Burns. “The Nook brand is here to stay (as if there was any doubt).”
Kindle Fire Update Addresses Several User Concerns
Unlike the feature addition of the Nook Color update, Amazon’s update for the Kindle Fire is more reparative in nature. Responding to the host of concerns and issues that users have been reporting since the new tablet began reaching consumers, Amazon announced that the upcoming update will include a number of performance fixes.
According to a New York Times report, this will include performance and navigation improvements, as well as greater user control over usage history.
These changes come in response to complaints about the Kindle Fire’s poor touchscreen responsiveness, less-than-impressive browsing experience, and privacy issues, among others.
“In less than two weeks, we’re rolling out an over-the-air update to Kindle Fire,” assured Drew Herdener, an Amazon spokesperson.
Whether the much-needed updates will be enough to put the Kindle Fire on the top of the low-priced tablet market is less certain. If one were to resonate with UI expert Jakob Nielsen, the “disappointingly poor” experience that the Fire has to offer has placed the tablet in a difficult position.
“I feel the Fire is going to be a failure,” he commented, adding that he did not personally endorse the Amazon tablet.
Meanwhile, others would call such condemnation of the Kindle Fire a premature underestimation of Amazon’s capabilities. Moreover, it is important to keep in mind the fact that not only is the Kindle Fire Amazon’s most successful product, but there is also likely going to be a whole new version of the tablet within the next year, perhaps as soon as the spring according to several sources.
Until then, however, users will have to be satisfied with whatever Amazon gives them in its pre-holiday update. If not, Amazon may find itself even further behind in a market that it arguably helped create.
And with Barnes & Noble already a few steps ahead in the game by positioning its Nook Color as the Kindle Fire challenger—thereby freeing up the new Nook Tablet to compete with higher-end tablets—Amazon cannot afford to make any mistakes.