My money is on Amazon winning here. Instant Video + Hulu would give Apple’s Netflix + iTunes a run for their money. (via AllThingsD)
Well, well, it seems our friends at Amazon are preparing to get into the tablet game after all. MG Siegler over at Techcrunch has seen and played with a prototype and has written up his impressions. What I find most interesting in all of this is the branding and control over the user experience that seems almost Apple-like.
So have the tablet wars begun or are we just watching the end of the dedicated eReader era?
Time will tell but if anyone can break into Apple’s iPad market, it’s Amazon. But they have chosen to not directly compete with the iPad in the initial release but take on eReader rival Barnes & Noble’s Nook Color. Like B&N, they are forking Android and writing a unique user interface on top of the Android kernel (reported to be Eclair but it would not be surprising if it turned out to be Froyo). But unlike Barnes & Noble, Amazon has a lot more content to sell than books and magazines which does not bode well for the second generation Nook Color unless it comes out for less than $200. The 7-inch Amazon Kindle will completely grab the Nook Color customer with the value proposition of books, magazines, movies, TV shows, music, and the web for half the price of an entry level iPad 2. It will be the must-have holiday gift if they get it out in time and have produced enough to meet the strong demand. And many customers will see this as a viable alternative to an iPad unlike every other Android, QNX or WebOS tablet. That’s because Amazon seems to have put together an end-to-end customer experience like Apple pioneered with the iPad 18 months ago.
The branding also seems brilliant here using the well-known Kindle brand. That brand started out meaning eReader hardware but over the past year or so has also included software on the iPhone, iPad, Android, WebOS and other mobile platforms. So now Kindle means content and not just eReader or eBooks to consumers. Placed on a 7-inch tablet along with the Amazon Instant Video and mp3 store, the Kindle brand could become as powerful as the iPad.
But it’s early days and I have yet to see and use this device. I certainly will pick one up when released and post a review here as I think Amazon is onto something really interesting here.
In my reading this morning I noticed that Barnes & Noble launched an eBook store so I checked it out. The most interesting part of their service is their device strategy which is to support computers and mobile phones including Apple’s ubiquitous iPhone. While I would probably read books on an iPhone if I had one, it’s a bit on the small side, not to mention the battery issues one would have to deal with on such a device.
To test it out I downloaded the Mac version of their reader software and went into the store to check out the selection. I immediately saw the book samples like you get for free like in Amazon‘s Kindle store and clicked on the button. Nothing happened. So I clicked on it again and it said I already owned that sample and to open the eReader software to download. When you go to the reader, there is no menu option to download. And if I go to my eBook library online I don’t see the book sample listed. So I’m stuck without a book sample to check out except their not-so-helpful documentation.
If an advanced computer user like me can’t figure out how to use this software, there is no way the mainstream will figure this out. I hope Barnes & Noble succeeds here as competition with keep Amazon and Sony honest and prices will be lower for consumers. But I’m not impressed by my first look at the eReader software on my laptop. I guess I should get that iPhone to see if it works better there.
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Via TechCrunch I scored an invite to the closed beta of Hulu, NBC‘s new online video service. I’d heard a lot about it over the past few weeks and even sampled a bit at OPENhulu but I wanted to check out the real thing.
After spending a few minutes testing it, everything seems to work as advertised on both my flaky Windows Vista box and Macbook. I can sample clips from SNL and 30 Rock I missed and they even let me embed videos here. The pre and post roll ads are seamless and not very disruptive, a good trade for the free content (some shows have no ads, like the example below). This is close to what the future of TV will be like; random access and watch on demand. I just think it will not be streaming but downloaded and consumed on mobile devices. The monetization will be via advertising and merchandise sales.
So I think Hulu is pretty good for sampling shows but not so nice for watching full episodes. That’s because I want to watch TV, well, on my TV and not my computer. But my kids will love this stuff as they see little difference between a laptop and a television.
Here’s one of my favorites from their collection (good thing I bought this on Amazon Unbox and it’s on my TiVo):