Archives For Media

20 Minutes with the Nook

Dave Zatz —  February 2, 2010 — 8 Comments

2010 is shaping up to be the year that media consumption tablets go mainstream. In fact, according to Amazon, the Kindle already has. Obviously, most of our current attention is focused on the iPad… and Macmillan jacking eBook prices by 50%. (Which is probably unsustainable, despite their hopes.) But a co-worker received a Nook ($259) for Christmas, and I asked her to bring it in so I could examine it outside the confines of a tradeshow floor or Barnes & Noble, proper.

First off, as you can clearly see, the Nook is far more physically attractive than the Kindle ($259). Beyond the 6″ E Ink display, it also quite cleverly integrates a color capacitive touchscreen to handle interaction. However, as many have noted (including our resident e-book expert) the initial software is way too slow. I can overlook the blinky E Ink page refreshes, but the boot times and tap-to-wait is a killer. Which makes me appreciate the simple competence of the Kindle even more. The hardware nav buttons on the Nook require more pressure than Kindle’s, and maybe more than I’d like. But it probably results in fewer inadvertent page turns. Of course, Barnes & Noble’s not-so-secret weapon is digital book lending… should the publishers universally (or mostly) get on board with it. But if/once they do, you can bet Amazon will likewise implement similar functionality.

Regardless, single function devices like the Kindle and Nook will need to come in lower given Apple’s aggressive iPad pricing.  (Better yet, follow in Audible’s footsteps to give away units in exchange for a book subscription plan.) And support richer, more complex content… As newspaper and periodical presentation and interaction could be greatly enhanced. If either of these guys drop to $199 and provide an RSS reader (say 10 subs on the house, without additional download fees) or introduce a $99 – $129 non-cellular model, I’d buy a pair. And a few as gifts. Otherwise, I’m staying on the sidelines until the path forward is a bit more clear.

Click to enlarge:

I’m actually a bit relieved Amazon did not release a Kindle 3 today. Because I would have blown a juicy scoop. Over the weekend, Twitter follower A. Scott Falk wondered why Amazon is running a “Kindle 3″ Google Adwords campaign against various Kindle searches. And we didn’t know if it heralded a new device, or was merely compelling ad copy. Given the news today and measured against Apple’s imminent announcement of something, it’s safe to say a Kindle 3 isn’t in the cards this month.

However, Amazon’s app store announcement is noteworthy… and probably inevitable. Next month, a Kindle Development Kit will be made available (in beta) allowing folks to start cranking out Kindle Store applications. Unlike iPhone app, Kindle developers and owners will obviously be constrained by a black & white screen of distracting, blinky page refreshes. More significant, and a major differentiation against say the iPhone, is that developers will be footing the bill for wireless delivery. So we’ll probably see fewer networked apps, and of greater expense.

Wielding a smartphone (or two), I have no interest in a Kindle Zagat guide. (I’m loving the new iPhone Yelp check-ins.) And I’m no fan of Kindle’s blog subscriptions. Instead of $2 a pop, how about I pay $7.99/month for an Amazon-provided RSS reader that I populate how I please? As a publisher, instead of making very little money on Kindle subscriptions, let me pick up the tab and give ZNF away to anyone interested. Hm, maybe that’ll be my personal app project.

Dazzboard 2 app manager CES 2010

Dazzboard is a newborn Finnish company that’s been getting decent press for the last six months as a media manager for the stuff on all your devices – photos, music, and video. Now the company is adding an Android App Manager to its list of features. The Dazzboard 2.0 software is a browser extension that you can access from your computer. Instead of shopping, adding, and deleting apps from your smartphone on the smartphone itself, you can do the heavy lifting on a larger PC screen, and just enjoy the apps themselves from your phone. It’s all drag and drop, and at least from the demo I saw tonight, looks dead simple to use. I’ll be trying this one out soon on my own Android device.

Other new features in Dazzboard 2.0 include:

  • iTunes content connectivity – only non-iTunes-DRM stuff
  • OpenID compatibility
  • Enhanced media management including cloud storage and support for social media networks
  • YouTube browsing
  • Media bookmarks

Aluratek Cinepal CES 2010 PMP

Aluratek’s got an interesting mid-tier product on its hands. When I first read the specs of the Cinepal, I was less than impressed. It’s a portable media player without the broadband connection. However, seeing it in person and talking to one of the product guys, I’ve had a bit of a change of heart. The Cinepal has a beautiful screen, and it offers a significantly better movie-watching experience than an iPod Touch or a smartphone. According to Aluratek, the reason the Cinepal doesn’t come with broadband is purely price point. At $149-$179, it doesn’t have to compete with an Archos device, it just has to compete with old-style portable DVD players.

I don’t know how many folks will purchase a Cinepal given the other options available (netbooks, high-end PMPs, etc.), but for a family with young kids that likes to travel, I can see the appeal. The Cinepal should be in stores by February.

seagate-dockstar1

Seagate has licensed the Pogoplug personal cloud experience, to power a line of networked hard drive docks – presumably for use in conjunction with Seagate’s external drives. Pogoplug, in its original $99 form, is a wall wart power adapter that also happens to contain a tiny Linux computer capable of sharing any USB storage, both locally and via the Internet. And I recently received a loaner – while I’m still formulating a Pogoplug opinion, check out my unboxing pics and their new streamlined social file sharing functionality. The Seagate Freeagent Dockstar lineup starts at $99.

Click to enlarge: