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Barnes & Noble joins tablet bandwagon with revamped Nook Color

Barnes & Noble is throwing its hat into the increasingly crowded ring for tablets with its latest updates for the Nook Color.

The new Nook Color software features apps, email and Flash for viewing videos. With a $249 price, it also comes with a significantly lower price tag than many other tablets.

?We first and foremost created a tablet that is optimized for reading,? said Sasha Norkin, vice president of digital marketing at Barnes & Noble, New York. ?Then knowing what people like to do on tablets in addition to reading, like looking at email and surfing the Web, we created Nook Color v1.2.?

Barnes & Noble operates 705 bookstores in 50 states. The Nook is an ereader introduced by Barnes & Noble that allows customers to access more than 2 million digital titles.

Joining the app craze
Nook Color customers can now download more than 125 apps from third-party developers. All updated Nook Color devices will also include a selection of preloaded apps, games and Nook Email, so users can check and send emails.

Some of the third-party developers offering apps for the new Nook Color are Chronicle Books, Conde Nast, Concrete Software, Gameloft and The National Geographic Society.

Nook Friends is preloaded as well. The social app lets users create a group of Nook Friends for swapping books and to see what friends think about specific books.

?The new Nook Color goes to show the level of importance that apps have in defining a platform,? said Josh Martin, senior analyst on the wireless media strategy team at Strategy Analytics, Newton, MA.

?There is a need for consumers to have apps available to them beyond one function and this is an indication of that.?

Nook Color v1.2 also updates the platform, which is now Android OS 2.2/Froyo, and includes support for Adobe Flash Player. As a result, users will be able to view more video and animated content.

The move comes at a time when the tablet marketplace is getting more competitive.

Apple introduced the iPad in April 2010.

According to a recent Gartner report, spending on tablets was $9.6 billion last year and the iPad accounted for the majority of that figure, according to reports.

Because of its success, a host of other companies including Samsung, Dell and Hewlett-Packard, have brought out their own tablet devices over the past year.

More recently, Research In Motion and Acer jumped into the marketplace for tablets., which puts out Nook?s competitor the Kindle, is reportedly readying a tablet.

On the ereader side, Amazon and Barnes & Noble are gaining share at the expense of Sony because of their low prices and integrated Wi-Fi, per Ross Rubin, executive director, industry analysis at The NPD Group, Port Washington, NY.

Spreading the word
Barnes & Noble will support the launch of the new Nook Color with a comprehensive, multichannel marketing campaign developed with the brand?s advertising partner Mullen. It includes 30- and 60-second television spots, print ads, digital and social elements.

?Barnes & Noble has always celebrated reading in all its forms,? Ms. Norkin said of the campaign.

?Whether by book or by Nook, Barnes & Noble is going to be there to deliver the best reading experience for you.?

The campaign celebrates the power of reading. It features people in real-life reading situations and shows the Nook Color Reader?s tablet alongside physical books.

Barnes & Noble?s unique distribution will let it reach buyers that might not venture into other channels where tablets are sold, such as carrier stores, per Mr. Rubin.

There are no plans at this time to offer any marketing within the Nook Color.

?The Nook Color has a strong value proposition, fulfilling many of the main tablet tasks at half the price of an iPad and significantly less than other products with similar specifications,? said Mr. Rubin. ?Its core proposition remains reading, though.?

Final Take