Barnes & Noble thinks you'll spend $50 more to buy its new Nook Tablet rather than Amazon's Fire, both of which go on sale sometime next week.
Apparently B&N also believes the original Nook Color is equal to the Amazon Fire now that both are priced at $199.
I think Barnes & Noble has lost its mind.
Does B&N realize that for us to choose the Tablet over the Fire it had to either blow us away product-wise (it didn't), at least match Amazon Fire's price (it didn't), or come up with a completely different value proposition (it didn't)?
Instead, Barnes & Noble figures to fight Fire with, literally, flash. Allow me to douse Tablet's not so flaming advantage.
Tablet (and that name sticks in my craw; lacking PIM features — calendar, email, contacts — at least out front, means Tablet is as much a "tablet" as the Honda Civic is a race car. Sure, it's a car and you can race it, but...) is technically slightly superior to Fire, which is how B&N will justify the higher price.
Tablet's got twice as much RAM than Fire (1GB vs. 512MB), and more usage flash memory storage (16GB vs. 8GB, plus an SD card slot).
I don't (and won't) buy these as being worth an extra $50.
On the twice-as-much-RAM side, I'm not going to pretend to understand how much RAM an Android app requires and how much smoother a tablet-specific game or other app will run compared to the same game or app on Fire.
What I do know is, the iPad and iPhone seem to run powerful games just fine with just 512MB of RAM.
But more importantly, if you're buying Nook to play games, you're buying the wrong tablet.
How Much Memory Do Your Need?
On the storage side, unlike Amazon, B&N doesn't sell digital movies as Amazon does — you stream video content from services such as Netflix and Hulu Plus — so you don't need a lot of storage space for movies.
And who uses a 7-inch tablet as their primary music device? It's way too big and clunky. You put enough tunes on so you can listen to music as you read, if your brain is wired to do so, or use one of the music services on Tablet such as Pandora or Rhapsody. So there's no need for a lot of storage space for music.
And B&N will admit to only having a few thousand apps (which could be anywhere from 2,000 to 99,000, but I couldn't even get a rep to commit to defining the "thousands" as five or six figures). I have 200 iPhone/iPad apps, which require only 3GB of storage on my iPhone. It's highly doubtful you'll download even half that many apps to a Tablet or even Fire.
So the only content your really need your Tablet to store in its twice-as-much-memory is books.
An e-book weighs in at maybe 5MB, depending if photos are included (Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson tips the digital scales at a hefty 13.8MB), around the same as your average music track.
This means 1,000 books take up around 5GB.
In my entire reading lifetime — 50-plus years — I've accumulated a grand total of around 1,500 books. If you need space to schlep around that many e-books, I advise you get a library card, not an e-reader.
But why are we even worrying about local storage? Both Amazon and B&N store your purchased content in the cloud. When you're done reading an e-book (or watching a movie or listening to a song), delete it from your device — it'll still remain available shelved in those big stacks in the sky.
So, $50 more for more memory — unnecessary.
What you might do with your Tablet or Fire other than e-read, play games or watch video is surf the Web, and here B&N has come to a gun fight with a knife.
Because, Amazon has the Silk Web browser, which could turn the entire world of mobile Web browsing on its head.
When you surf the Web, you pull page elements — text, photos, logos, video, ads, et al — from dozens, sometimes a 100-plus different sources simultaneously. This requires processing power and really solid wireless connection. A mobile device lacks the processing power to pull all these page components in efficiently. That's why the bulk of a page loads quickly on your mobile device, then you end up waiting — and waiting, and waiting — for the rest of the page elements to fill.
Amazon's plan solves this lagging problem by using its massive servers to assemble Web pages for you, sending completed pages to Silk in a single, pre-processed stream.
So instead of waiting 5-10-30 seconds for a Web page to load, Web pages on the Fire POP! onto the page.
If it's really all Amazon plans for it to be, then THAT'S worth an extra $50.
Now How Much Would You Pay?
Knowing it was facing Fire, I was hoping B&N would re-order the e-book pricing paradigm.
Instead of charging us full price on the Tablet, for instance, B&N could have subsidized it like a cellphone — cut the price if we agree to buy X-number of e-books or apps or whatever over a period of time.
$149 with a buying commitment would have been killer. $99 with a slightly higher buying commitment — CHA-CHING!
Amazon gets this because it can — it'll lose an estimated $50 on each Fire because the company knows you'll buy not only e-books but movies and music and games, too.
If Tablet was the same price as Fire, B&N would have a compelling sales argument.
$50 more? I say no sale.