Nook Tablet vs. Kindle Fire: Which will win?

Holiday shoppers must decide between the Nook Tablet's superior features and the Kindle Fire's lower price

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Barnes & Noble officials said the Nook Tablet is based on Android 2.3, also called Gingerbread, but noted that it doesn't have a full browser or the capability to purchase all the apps available in the Android Market. That puts it roughly in the same category as the Kindle Fire, analysts said, although Amazon said its browser is a full browser. Both products are a lower-cost alternative to the Apple iPad 2, which starts at $499.

Enderle said both the Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet would be used to perform the same functions for which 80% of iPad customers use their more-expensive tablets. The iPad's full access to the Apple AppStore and full browsing experience might not justify its higher price tag for most users, however, Enderle said.

"At their lower price points, not having full browsers doesn't matter, because both Barnes & Noble and Amazon are making devices that are offering buy-through of their products," Enderle said. "These aren't full-on tablets, and it's a very tight user experience. The iPad will be used the same way 80% of the time and at a far higher price."

One distinction that Lynch made in the Nook Tablet over the Kindle Fire is the ability to try out the device in a store before buying it and to arrange for in-store repair service for free, if needed.

Enderle and Gold said those in-store factors probably won't be seen as a significant difference, given Amazon's online sales success and return policies.

But Mainelli said in-store support is a "key differentiator for Barnes & Noble" that's enhanced by free in-store content over Wi-Fi that "Amazon just can't match."

Lowering the price of the original Nook Color from $249 to $199 probably won't give Barnes & Noble the big advantage it wants over Amazon, either, Enderle said. That's because the Nook Color falls into the category of an e-reader, not a tablet.

While Amazon wins on price, it also should win on availability of apps and content over Barnes & Noble, something that non-techie buyers might more fully appreciate, Gold said. "Barnes & Noble doesn't have the ecosystem and channel of Amazon," he said.

While the $50 price difference could matter greatly in the holiday shopping period, it might not last that long, Gold predicted. "I would expect that the Nook will soon meet the pricing of the Fire, once the initial products have shipped to the early adopters," Gold said. "I do expect to see a price war on tablets in the near future."

More tablet info

The table below shows the most recently announced tablets as reported by Computerworld. Click a tablet's name in the leftmost column to read a news story or review with more information about the device, or view a larger table with more details about each product.

Table created by Computerworld staff using Zoho Creator.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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