Barnes & Noble, the largest book retailer in the U.S., launched a cheaper version of its Nook tablet PC priced at US$199 on Tuesday in a bid to compete against Amazon, which released its Kindle Fire last November (US1=W1,127).
Amazon sold 3.89 million units of its popular e-book reader in the fourth quarter to grab the second-largest share of the global tablet PC market after Apple with its iPad.
The Nook, which was also first unveiled in November, originally cost $249 and came equipped with a 16 gigabyte memory. But lackluster sales drove Barnes & Noble to reduce its price by $50 by halving memory capacity. This means the Nook and Kindle Fire are now matched in terms of both memory capacity and price. They also both have 7-inch touch screens, dual-core processors, and run on Google’s Android OS.
But the Nook gives more bang for customers' buck in terms of battery longevity. Users can read e-books on it for up to 11.5 hours, about 30 percent longer than on the Kindle Fire, the book retailer claimed. Furthermore, the Nook has a connector so consumers can add an external memory card, a feature lacking on Amazon's product.
Competition in the global tablet PC market will likely heat up even more as it bifurcates into two segments: high-end models such as the iPad and Galaxy Tab, and low-cost alternatives like the Kindle Fire and the Nook. Although lower in capacity compared to the iPad 2, the Kindle Fire has been gaining popularity as it is 25 percent to 45 percent cheaper than the iPad.