Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Barnes and Noble Update The Nook

Just in time for the holidays the Nook e-book reader has been updated with new features. "The new touchscreen Nook Color, priced at $249, costs about half as much as an entry-level Apple Inc. iPad—but almost twice as much as an entry-level Kindle from Inc. and Barnes & Noble's existing monochrome Nook device."

The issue for Barnes and Noble is to identify who its competitors are and what positioning strategy they are impacting. Kindle is seen as the leader in the e-book category and the Apple iPad may compete but may not fit how readers wish to access their books. For them the iPad is too much and too expensive. For the Nook, the question becomes, do these new features and price point drive market share. Should more attention be made on price or should the push be on the exclusivity that B&N can add to the Nook that aren't available from Amazon. Clearly having brick and mortar stores must offer some advantages that they can capitalize on.

Currently the numbers don't look good for the Nook. "Barnes & Noble, which first unveiled the Nook last fall, has had difficulty catching up with market leader Amazon. Forrester Research estimates that by the end of this year there will be 6.1 million Amazon Kindles on the market in the U.S., but just 2.1 million Nooks and 2.2 million Sony Corp." The question to B&N remains, does this new version do enough to capture a bigger piece of the market. To me it is more than offering color. Take a page from the Apple playbook and figure out how to drive more usefulness into your product mix. A device does not run without software and content that is of value to the customer.

It is exciting to watch how far the e-book category is growing. Clearly it is the next physical media being transformed into our digital landscape. Watching the changes in TV, movies, and music, may give some hints to these players in acquiring and retaining customers.

How Should Apple Spend Its Money

Stockpickers and shareholders continue to speculate with how Apple should spend its earnings. Its top executives are cashing out their restrictive stock options and shareholders seek even more ROI. So what should Apple do? Release a dividend like Microsoft started a couple years ago. Split the shares 2:1 or more to encourage more investors to the stock and push higher the stock price. Or grow through acquisition.

Well the speculation has started. "Shares of Sony Corp rose nearly 3 percent at one point on Tuesday, but later retreated as analysts dismissed speculation that the electronics maker could be an acquisition target of Apple Inc." But if not Sony, who? Should they consider a web company like Yahoo, a CE firm like Panasonic, or perhaps Tivo. How about a content creator like NBC or CBS. Should Apple expand beyond its core strength of developing products that others can build software that Apple can resell. The App Store and iTunes are working quite well.

Apple has stated it has over 51 billion dollars in cash ready to use. But according to Steve Jobs, he is not under any urgency to spend it quickly. So far he has made all the right moves while its nearest competitor, Microsoft, has had a number of disappointments. For those that trust what Apple is doing, surely more good things will come.