Tomorrow, Barnes & Noble (B&N) is expected to announce its own B&N-branded eReader device--the Nook, as the Wall Street Journal reported this evening. The device is expected to be wireless and touch-operated, with dual screens--a 6" E Ink display for reading, and a smaller color LCD screen for navigation, video, and...ads?
In other words, the B&N eReader could be a Kindle and an iPhone put together.
I knew from conversations with my own sources that this would be a cool device, but I didn't expect that it would be priced, as the WSJ reports, at $259. This puts the Nook competing squarely with Amazon's Kindle 2--most likely with a razor thin margin, if any, for B&N. To steal market share from Amazon and make up for lost time, B&N is pricing the Nook as aggressively as possible.
Getting the price right is crucial to success in this emerging device market. As we published earlier this year, most consumers expect eReaders to be $99 or less. But we expected something in the range of $399, which would make the device competitive with the other touch + wireless eReaders on the market, the Sony Daily Edition and the iRex DR800SG, both of which will be sold at Best Buy among other retailers. Pricing the Nook a full $140 below these other devices sends a strong signal that B&N is focused on Amazon, not Sony, as competition.
First, apologies for the radio silence--it's end of quarter here at Forrester, and I've been busy adding to shareholder value, etc.But I did want to add a quick comment on what's happened on the Google/publisher/eBook scene this week, as Google:
Launched the Fast Flip application. Google's launch of the Fast Flip application is an olive branch extended to publishers. For those of you who haven't used it, it's pretty cool: You search for a term, like "Kindle," and the results are presented as screenshots of major media publications (BusinessWeek, Fast Company, The Atlantic, NYTimes, Slate, etc.) that have covered the topic recently. You can read about a screen's worth, and flip to the next one by clicking the big arrows on the left or right, or click into the story to go to the publisher's web site and continue reading. Google shares ad revenue with publishers, and shows just enough content to encourage click-through to the publisher's site, where users see more ads.
Our take: For Google, the Fast Flip is an attempt to be a better partner to publishers. As much as publishers would like to think that Google needs them, only the reverse is true. But Google is starting to invest more in creating goodwill for publishers in the newspaper, magazine, and book sectors, and the Fast Flip is part of that effort.
Which business problems will Google Wave address? A few weeks ago, I watched the Google Wave launch video with a mix of interest and nervousness. A big part of my reaction was shaped (warped?) by my experience doing product management and product marketing for collaboration and content management products. While I didn't launch myself at the screen yelling "Noooooooo!" (in slow motion), I did worry that Google might walk straight into an all-too-familiar minefield of competing solution areas.
Collaboration and content management pose a classic problem in requirements and design: Which solution do you want to target? If you build a product without prioritizing among all the different business problems that it might address, you'll build a very "horizontal" product that satisfies no one. Or, worse, it makes perfect sense to you, but everyone else struggles to see how it will best work for them.
Today Sony announced that its public domain offerings from Google in its eBook store has reached 1 million volumes. That's a lot of eBooks. For context, the Library of Congress has 32 million books and is the world's largest library; Harvard's collection is 5th largest at 15 million books. (Thanks, Wikipedia.) So we're merrily trucking along at digitizing the world's collection of books.
Google's announcement about the Chrome OS raises a whole lotta questions about the future of the operating systems market, or what an operating system really is, or how the Chrome OS fits into Google's larger strategy. As interesting as these questions may be, we also have very little foundation on which to answer them.
I have a much longer post here about the reasons why we can't reach any conclusions yet. Here's the short version:
Netbooks, which play a significant role in the prospects for Chrome OS, can be both a blessing and a curse.
You could say the same thing about the degree to which the Chrome OS depends on the Chrome browser.
Users may not see the compelling reasons to use this new platform, or even understand it fully.
Governments may not be thrilled about the implications for competition and privacy.
There's still a lot of murkiness about cloud computing in general that this does nothing to dispel.
I was intrigued and excited to see Google announcement of their second operating system effort today, Google Chrome OS. I’ve been thinking about how client operating systems will evolve ever since I began struggling with having data spread across multiple PCs. I finally gathered together my thoughts on the future of client OS in the The Personal Cloud, published just two days ago.
My working title for this report was “Death of the PC OS” because I believe that the industry needs to rethink and expand the role of PC and device operating systems.