We have finally reached a watershed moment in the world of Android tablets: Amazon with its newKindle Fire and Barnes & Noble with its new Nook Tablet are finally giving the Apple iPad a run for its money.
It's clear that both Amazon and B&N realize that theway to successfully compete with Apple is to offer a great user interface, easy access to content and a lower price than the iPad. It's no longer possible for manufacturers to simply offer the basic Android tablet user interface and let the user figure out where to find useful content.
TheKindle Fire and Nook Tablet integrate proprietary user interfaces on top of Android. Both integrate access to rich media content. Both have Texas Instruments dual-core 1GHz processors and 7-inch bright color displays (1,024 by 600). Both decode HD video (up to 1080p and 720p Flash) and render it at 1,024 by 600. Both are aggressively priced-$199 for the Kindle Fire and $249 for the Nook Tablet.
The Verge andGeek each provides a good comparative review of the features of the two tablets. The main difference in the hardware is that the Nook Tablet has an SD slot and 16GB of internal storage versus no slot and 8GB of storage in the Kindle Fire.
I recently tested a Kindle Fire and found it a delight. The Kindle Fire doesn't come with a user's manual, but does welcome you with a short on-screen tutorial. You just turn it on and start navigating through the options to access content. If you are a current Amazon customer, the device comes preregistered to you with all of the content you've previously purchased waiting for you in your libraries.
Access to the Amazon Appstore for Android is there, but the device "screams out" to the user to easily swipe through IMDb for movies, Pulse for news, Facebook, the full online Amazon store or any category tabs, giving access to millions of books, music, magazines, apps, games, videos and Web access via Amazon's cloud-based Silk browser.
Amazon Prime, a value-add service that sells for $79 per year but that every Kindle Fire customer receives as a free 30-day trial, provides free streaming access to movies, music and TV shows. It also provides access to more than 5,000 books, including New York Times best sellers, from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library-and, of course, free, two-day shipping for "physical" (versus digital) products purchased through the store. You can set up email on the Kindle Fire, but it's located down a few levels.
Amazon needs to relocate the Power button from the bottom to the side or top, and it needs to add volume buttons on either the left or right side. The default lettering on the virtual keyboard should also be changed from lowercase to uppercase, as that's the standard on all physical keyboards.
TheNook Tablet has a 1GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. It also has an SD slot and more internal storage. In addition, B&N is offering users free cloud-based storage to upload, store and stream their content. The Nook Tablet comes preloaded with Netflix, Hulu and Pandora, which are also easily downloaded on the Kindle.