Looks like B&N and Amazon aren’t resting on their past successes. Rumors are pegging both companies as having some refreshed hardware coming soon, possibly a tablet for Amazon and an original NOOK refresh for B&N!
Let’s start with Amazon’s tablet. The rumor, admittedly unconfirmed, is that some sort of LCD-based device is coming from Amazon later this year to combat the incredible success of the NOOKcolor. Amazon has all the pieces in place for a fantastic device, with an app store, a tablet-optimized version of the Kindle app, plus the added bonus of Amazon MP3 and the new Amazon Prime video streaming service. It’s not really a shocker that Amazon will muscle into the tablet space, but I have a few speculative ideas about how they could really turn the market on its head.
Amazon has done an amazing job building Whispersync into a magical way to keep your books perfectly in tune across multiple devices. They’ve also been generous enough to offer up free 3G access on capable Kindles. Now imagine combining those two with the tablet concept. Instead of making you pay for a 3G service, what if Amazon offered free 3G for Amazon services? In other words, much like B&N offers free 3G on the classic NOOK, Amazon could offer free 3G for Kindle, MP3, and (if they’re feeling SUPER generous) Amazon Unbox. It would certainly be a big one-up over the NOOKcolor and the iPad, though it would require a fair amount of trickery to restrict the 3G to just Amazon’s services (and get a service provider to go along with it!)
Even without throwing in 3G, Amazon could have a formidable competitor to both the iPad and the NOOKcolor if they combine all their cloud services into one media-centric tablet. It’s disappointing that it probably won’t be Mirasol or another fancy screen, but it makes sense that Amazon wants to become a player in this space before it becomes completely overrun by B&N, Apple, and the other tablet makers.
Then there’s B&N. Their news is far more cryptic, with the only clue to the impending release being a securities filing noting a new device on May 24th. While it’s not clear what it will be, there’s a fair likelihood it’s an update to the NOOKclassic. For starters, B&N has been pushing refurb’d NOOKclassics all over the web to clear out inventory [ has a great deal on NOOKclassics if you're in the market for one!]. Second of all, the NOOKclassic hasn’t seen a major overhaul since it was released almost a year and a half ago. Even the NOOKclassic WiFi is basically the same device, just without 3G.
So what could we probably see in a new NOOK? My guess is an updated Pearl eInk screen (like the Kindle 3), since that’s an easy one. B&N differentiated themselves from the Kindle with the touch LCD along the bottom 1/4 of the NOOK, and I think it would be a logical jump for B&N to include a touchscreen for the eInk portion of the NOOK as well. Not only would this give them a distinct selling point over the Kindle, it would also give them a plausible reason to maintain price points that are higher than Amazon’s. Plus, there’s always the chance they could cross-sell some NOOKcolor apps with the NOOKclassic (not games, obviously, but recipe apps, etc might still work well on eInk.) The point is, there’s potential there, and since B&N is releasing this significantly after the Kindle 3, and well after the NOOKclassic has permeated the market, it needs to make a compelling case for upgrades and new purchases. Sony’s devices have had touchscreens since their last refresh, but B&N has significantly more marketshare in ebook readers. They need something big and splashy, and that would do it!
What do you think is coming from Amazon and B&N? Are you chomping at the bit for an upgrade to your NOOKclassic? Have you held off on a NOOKcolor hoping Amazon has something up their sleeves? Share your best speculation below!