Barnes & Noble launched its widely expected tablet Monday, taking on the soon-to-be released tablet from book-selling rival Amazon with a machine that has slightly better specs.
"With the Nook Tablet we are delivering the best media device ever created in a portable form factor," said Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch at a launch event at the company's Union Square bookstore in New York.
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Lynch touted the tablet's screen resolution and battery life as key selling points.
The tablet will serve as an e-reader and can stream HD movies and music. The company has signed partnerships with Zulu and Netflix to provide video content. Users will be able to read magazines, interactive children's books, and comic books, and use apps from the Barnes & Noble Nook Store. The display is a proprietary design called VividView, which Lynch said has a clearer display and wider viewing angle than other tablets.
As for battery life, Lynch said that a user would be able to watch movies, either on disk or streaming, for 8 hours. That would mean five full-length HD movies on a flight between New York and Rome, for instance. For reading, the battery will last as long as 11 hours.
The tablet will be available "by the end of next week" at Barnes & Noble stores, other retailers, and by mail. Users will be able to save data on the Nook Cloud, and Barnes & Noble will offer free Wi-Fi at all its stores through AT&T.
Lynch took time in the presentation to compare the new tablet with the Kindle Fire, which he disparaged. "The Kindle Fire is deficient for a media tablet," he said. The Kindle Fire's 512MB of RAM does not provide enough room to play a game app while reading a magazine or running another app, he said. Its 8GB of storage is not enough to hold media for those situations where the user is not connected to the Internet. "You're not always going to be connected to the cloud," he said.
The Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet will cost $249. The company will drop the price of the previous edition of the Nook, the Nook Color e-reader/tablet, to $199.
The Nook is a 7-inch tablet, weighing 14.1 ounces. It features a 1,024-by-600-pixel touchscreen. It will come with 1GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage and a 32GB expandable SD card. Processor-wise, the unit will feature a 1GHz dual-core OMAP4 chip.
With their latest releases, both Barnes & Noble and Amazon, whose Kindle Fire is due out on Nov. 15 priced at $199, are competing not only in the market for e-readers but general purpose tablets. The tablet market is currently dominated by Apple's iPad. IDC in September said tablet shipments this year would reach 62.5 million units.