New Nooks, including a new color Nook Tablet, aim to take on Amazon and the Kindle Fire. All the live news from today's press conference.
Scott SteinEditor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
ExpertiseVR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tabletsCredentials
Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
This morning, Barnes & Noble is holding a press conference to unveil next-generation Nook products. We'll be there starting at 9:45 a.m. ET, live-blogging the whole event.
How much less expensive will the touch-based Nook get? Will the new Nook Color be significantly different from the existing one? And, will Barnes & Noble be able to offer the right types of content and value to compete with Amazon's intimidating cloud offerings in books, music, TV, and movies? Will it all unfold like recent rumors suggest, or will there be surprises?
Bookmark this link, and follow the live blog below.
9:43-47 a.m. ET: John Falcone: Hi everyone. Greetings from New York City, where we're waiting for Barnes & Noble to start its press conference. The real action is still 15-20 minutes away. Before we start, a recap--The Nook Color debuted last year around this same time and it was, at the time, a somewhat revolutionary product--a "reading tablet" that sold for 50 percent of the cost of an iPad. B&N later added a small curated app store to the device, which runs a custom version of Android and the device remained CNET's favorite sub-$300 tablet, even as more expensive Android models hit the stores.
9:48 a.m. ET: John Falcone: Scott Stein is on site, at the Barnes & Noble store in Union Square, Manhattan.. He's setting up now, and will be jumping in this chat soon. Sarah Tew will be handling photos.
9:48 a.m. ET: Scott Stein: Hey, Scott Stein here. Just got seated.
9:52 a.m. ET: Scott Stein: Here with Bridget Carey and Sarah Tew--CNET Team ready to go.
9:54-55 a.m. ET: John Falcone: Also, the rumor specified that the Tablet would offer Netflix and Hulu Plus. So, while it's $50 more than the upcoming Kindle Fire (due next week). The Nook Tablet one-ups it w/ more storage, expansion, and some must-have apps. Amazon has been cagey on which apps will be on the Fire beyond Amazon's first-party stuff (Amazon Prime Video, Kindle books, Amazon Music, etc.)
9:54 a.m. ET: Scott Stein: It's an interesting debate: would you rather have a more storage-heavy tablet that you store stuff on, or a more cloud-connected tablet? That could be the Kindle Fire vs. Nook Color battle.
9:59 a.m. ET: Scott Stein: OK, lights are dimming. We were told to take our seats.
9:59 a.m. ET: John Falcone: FYI, this is the same space that B&N uses for author readings. I think I saw David Mamet there several years ago.
10:00-03 a.m. ET: Scott Stein: It's a nice space. Never been up here. Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch on stage. Talking about B&N growing digital content. 27 percent of e-books sold in US from Barnes & Noble. Discussing Nook Simple Touch. Splash of review pull quotes, including CNET. Nook Color now. Quote from Bezos on screen. Trying to take some credit for being the first to the color e-reader game...Claiming largest catalog of color children's books.
10:03-04 a.m. ET: Scott Stein: OK, announcing new product. Saying it will offer HD entertainment experience in portable form factor. Nook Tablet is the name. Yep, same shape as the Nook Color. Showing splashy video of content, TV, movies.
10:05 a.m. ET: Scott Stein: For songs, showed Pandora. "Free cloud storage." 1GB memory, lots of games, magazines, apps. Now Lynch is holding up the tablet. Feature discussion time. 1Ghz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM. Under a pound. Again, seems like the same shape as the Color. Display is IPS, made by LG. VividView color screen. Claiming lowest reflection and glare of any tablet. Emphasizing free Wi-Fi in B&N stores, and AT&T Wi-Fi hot spots.
10:08 a.m. ET: Scott Stein: 9 hours of video playback, according to Lynch. 11.5 hours of reading time. Up to 1080p video support. Netflix and Hulu Plus preloaded as apps.
10:09 a.m. ET: Dan Ackerman: Sadly, they've closed so many B&N store locations, the free Wi-Fi in-store isn't as compelling as it should be.
10:09-11 a.m. ET: Scott Stein: Netflix recommendations pushed to home screen next to books and subscriptions. Baked-in. Claiming "No. 1 video service" with Netflix, and "No. 1 streaming music" with Pandora, and largest collection of comics, via Marvel. Some spin there. 2.5 million titles on the Nook store. In this day and age, selling Pandora as killer streaming music is a little hard to swallow. Can read and record via mic with children's books. You could have parents or grandparents record a reading to a book. Ok, kind of nice. Better to be there in person, though.
10:11 a.m. ET: John Falcone: Note that we don't yet know if the Kindle Fire will offer Pandora, Netflix, or Hulu Plus.
10:12-14 a.m. ET: Scott Stein: Nook Newsstand discussed. 35 special-edition magazines, and hundreds of others. Nook Comics app. Hmm. Claiming "best ePub reading experience." Focusing on pinch-to-zoom, etc. Apps shown. Showtime, Pulse, and of course Angry Birds..."People aren't always connected to the cloud." 16GB of memory and expandable SD card slot for an "extra 32GB." That is a lot of potential storage. Nook Cloud. Mentioned briefly as a place to store digital content.
10:15-16 a.m. ET: Scott Stein: Now talking about always-free in-store support for the Nook. An Apple Store-type push.Running over the advantages now. "better display--superior viewing angle." Fully laminated display. Claiming Kindle Fire uses "off the shelf" display with an air gap, non-laminated. Said Kindle Fire is "deficient" as a media tablet. 7x more storage capacity...if you use the SD card.
10:17 a.m. ET: Scott Stein: Now attacking the Kindle Fire's use of the Blackberry Playbook reference design. Wow, body shots. Saying that the Nook Tablet's 1GB of RAM vs. the Fire's 512MB is a "big difference." App switching, etc with multiple apps open.
10:18 a.m. ET: Dan Ackerman: Are they really going to have a qualified tech support team in every store? Or is it just going to be "Got a problem? We'll just swap your unit for a new one..."
10:18-20 a.m. ET: Scott Stein: Exactly. Claiming "better content rendering." Quote from Reed Hastings on how good Netflix looks on the Nook Tablet. Ok."Better and lighter" design, according to Lynch. Price: $249. So, "better"...and more expensive. At retailers: Best Buy, RadioShack, Walmart, others.
10:20 a.m. ET: Scott Stein: Jane Lynch now on screen in an ad. OK, props for using Jane Lynch. Onscreen bullet points also say Nook Tablet is "best engineered."
10:20 a.m. ET: Dan Ackerman: Frankly, seems pretty killer on paper, as did the original Nook Color.
10:21 a.m. ET: Scott Stein: It's definitely beating out most features on the Kindle Fire, spec by spec.
10:21-22 a.m. ET: John Falcone: We'll have to see if the extra RAM and CPU speeds helps performance. Interesting intangibles--B&N in-store service vs. Amazon Prime. Not included in "specs," but those will definitely factor into many buying decisions.
10:22-26 a.m. ET: Scott Stein: Jamie Iannone, president of digital products, on stage. Discussing Nook Color's price drop to $199, and 100 enhancements. Added social reading features. Fast access to Web and e-mail. 8GB plus SD cart slot for expansion. Now discussing Nook Simple Touch. New e-ink display in update, 25 percent faster than other e-ink products. Page turns at 450 milliseconds. Added Best-Text. New feature for rendering text better and crisper. "Best reading experience in e-ink, period." Longest battery life: 2 months of reading on single charge, reading 1 hour a day. Price: $99. Available starting this week.
10:27 a.m. ET: John Falcone: Nice--they had to cut the price in advance of the launch of the Kindle Touch (also $99, coming November 21). Note that the Kindle Touch has support for MP3 and audio books, however; no audio on Nook Simple Touch [though I'm guessing most folks won't care]
10:27-29 a.m. ET: Scott Stein: Claiming reading battery life is 2x longer than Kindle: 150 hours. "No annoying ads, whether the device is on, or off." "What's it worth for a customer to turn off these ads? Our competitor says $40." "Do you want to give your friends an ad-based product?" Big dig on Amazon's ads.
10:30-31 a.m. ET: Scott Stein: Lynch back on stage, going over the lineup. $99, $199, $249. In stores beginning next week. Now going over the expanded Nook sections in B&N stores. Taking advantage of the large real estate and floor plans in B&N stores. This Barnes & Noble is the premiere space. Lots of hands-on areas. OK, so that's it.
10:32-34 a.m. ET: Scott Stein: No news on software updates, and as far as rooting your Nook, we'll have to see. B&N is certainly pushing how much content will be available even on a non-rooted one.Will be interesting to see how this performs. Definitely made a strong push on engineering and specs. Q&A coming up. Stick around.
10:35-36 a.m. ET: Scott Stein: The one feature I want: buy a physical book, get a code for an e-version. Come on. Should be like Blu-ray/DVDs. Q&A beginning. Q: what download media content options are there? Lynch: you can download your own movies and music and side load. If you have your own library, side load the way you do with photos. On the app side, the most popular services like Netflix are streaming. The integration of those two services will look better than on any other tablet.
10:36-37 a.m. ET: Scott Stein: Q: screen is 1024x600. why does full HD matter? A: streaming Netflix in 720p, looks great. That's what we say when we support HD entertainment.
10:38-39 a.m. ET: Scott Stein: Q from audience: you're betting shoppers will spend more for the storage. Are you aiming for the same audience as the Kindle Fire? Lynch: their device hasn't shipped yet. We haven't seen it yet. We want to be the most innovative company in digital reading. What we've done with our reader, interactive kids' books, those will be better. We'll be servicing core readers first. As relates to media services...the Kindle Fire is a vending machine for Amazon services. Valid business strategy, we'll see how it works out. We're partnering with apps like Netflix, Pandora...we'll let users choose. They'll look better than anyplace else. You'll see how fast Web-browsing is on this thing. We're more open.
10:40 a.m. ET: Scott Stein: Q: have you made improvements to the Nook Touch browser? A: Nook Simple Touch doesn't have a browser...it's about the reading experience. We focused on the reading experience and the price.
10:41-42 a.m. ET: Scott Stein: Q: bluetooth keyboards for the Nook Color? A: No Bluetooth. (Audience member: the Color does. Lynch: no, it has a Bluetooth module.) Iannone: magazines, comics, etc will be available via an update for Nook Color customers before the holidays.
10:44-46 a.m. ET: Scott Stein: Lynch: Android Gingerbread on new Nooks. No full access to Android marketplace. Lynch: "we think 6GB of memory on media tablets is not enough." Answering audience Q on what the advantages are. Of course, that was the whole press conference...Lynch: "understand, we designed this product to be pioneering. We're trying to lead, not follow." Largest campaign in Barnes & Noble history for the new Nook Tablet. James Patterson and other authors to be featured.
10:47-49 a.m. ET: Scott Stein: Bridget Carey asking about how the free update will work. Iannone: it will push automatically when it's ready. Customers buying devices today will get those features now. (on the new devices, of course) So, you'll get those new features right away on a new Nook Color/Tablet/Simple Touch, and by end of year if you wait for the software update.
10:50-51 a.m. ET: Scott Stein: (My take: Nook Tablet is kind of like the iPhone 4S of e-readers...similar chassis, upgraded guts.) Lynch answering question as to why B&N isn't selling digital movies and TV. Saying they're not going to launch something where they can't get material gain in the experience. Prefer to stay with books, magazines, textbooks, etc.
10:52 a.m. ET: Scott Stein: Q: will Nook tablet support same video/media codecs as Gingerbread tablets? A: yes. 8 codecs supported.
10:54 a.m. ET: Scott Stein: Q: Android app marketplace is getting bigger. How can you take advantage? A: (Lynch) first and foremost, we want best experience on a 7-inch tablet. Shopping for apps can be a tough merchandizing experience. Do we see it opening up eventually? Maybe. Right now, top B&N apps are grossing a lot of money. Lynch acknowledges "we're looking at it."
10:55 a.m. ET: Scott Stein: OK, that's it. Thanks, everyone, for tuning in. Going to go look at one hands-on. Thanks Dan, John, Sarah, and Bridget...and all of you for following along.