Barnes & Noble has officially joined the race to scoop up that segment of the tablet market that is happy to forego quality for cheapness. The Amazon rival unveiled its brand new 8GB Nook tablet on Tuesday, which comes with a provocative price tag of just $199. But is the quest to produce the cheapest tablet turning into the quest to produce the crappiest tablet?
After debuting the original 16GB Nook tablet in November, Barnes & Noble clearly learned that when people want cheap tablets, they want cheap tablets. While the 16GB hit the market with twice the RAM, longer battery life, and better performance than the Kindle Fire, its price tag of $249 no doubt kept it from competing fully with the Kindle Fire, which also had the advantage of coming out first and wielding Amazon’s brand recognition to boot. But consumers who are willing to pay extra for quality are those who will shell out the extra $250 for an iPad—which explains why Apple maintained the top slot in the tablet market while Amazon scooted in at number two last quarter.
So I imagine that someone at a Barnes & Noble board meeting probably proposed the obvious solution: let’s make the Nook tablet a little crappier. Thus, the 8GB Nook tablet was born.
I’m being harsh, especially considering I haven’t even played with the new Nook tablet yet. But I’m a big proponent of making snap judgements. I’m also a fan of making important life decisions on impulse.
So the new Nook tablet comes with 512MB of RAM instead of the 1GB that the original Nook tablet boasted, which now puts it on par with the Kindle Fire. But that extra RAM was what made the Nook experience sleeker and more fluid than that of the Kindle Fire, so the new 8GB Nook tablet is bound to have a more sluggish performance.
The 8GB still has a leg up on the Kindle Fire where battery life is concerned, however. While the Kindle Fire offers up to eight hours of reading or 7.5 hours of video, the 8GB Nook tablet boasts 11.5 hours of reading time and nine hours of video. It also comes with expandable memory, which allows you to add up to 32GB with the MicroSD card.
And of course, while new Kindle Fire users must take it on blind faith that the tablet will be a satisfying purchase, Nook tablet users have the advantage of being able to test out the product in brick-and-mortar stores before purchase.
Barnes & Noble also announced a price cut for the Nook color, which is now available for $169.
In Q4 2011, Amazon claimed 14% of the tablet market while BN took 7%, according to a report from iSuppli. Meanwhile, Apple’s market share fell to 57% from 64%.