MLB’s At Bat app rakes in the viewers and sales


Major League Baseball has been very aggressive in developing and delivering a variety of apps that can enhance a fan’s appreciation of the game and the flagship product in that effort is clearly At Bat, a program that enables fans to watch and/or listen to games.

The program has seen strong demand, with 10 million downloads in a single season, and very high usage with 1 billion launches. MLB said that 60% of fans open it every day. Last year it had 6.7 million downloads.

Apple recently announced that the program is one of the 10 top grossing iOS apps of all time, and that is no surprise in view of how long the two have partnered. When Apple opened its App store in 2008, At Bat was one of the original apps available.

Of course the app is not just for Apple’s platform, although they are often the first to get the latest releases and have the most features, but it also has an Android version as well as BlackBerry and Kindle Fire.

It would be interesting to see if the growing popularity of the app, which helps fans view games that might not be broadcast in their area, or hear favorite broadcasters has had any impact on other areas of the game such as television viewership. The recently concluded series between Boston and St. Louis saw TV ratings jump 17% this year.

Barnes & Noble Expected to Offer Nook Video Services

Barnes & Noble is planning on offering a video streaming and downloading service later in the fall as it faces increased competition not just from Amazon but also from the expected Apple iPad Mini and the upcoming Windows 8 tablets from Microsoft and its OEMs.

The company, which has been pondering the fate of its Nook e-reader for some time despite its popularity when released, said that the service will enable Nook users to buy movies and television shows from Time Warner’s HBO; Viacom; Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; and Walt Disney Studios. It said that it is planning to add additional media content in the future.

It is commonly viewed that Amazon’s Kindle platform is the primary rival to the Nook and recently Amazon provided a huge upgrade to that platform in terms of quality of tablets and added a new larger model.

However the physical tablets are only part of the equation as Amazon offers both a streaming video service via its Prime offerings, but users get two day shipping on many items purchased using Amazon. Amazon has added a huge new library of videos via a deal with Epix as it seeks to also steal customers from Netflix as to help differentiate its offerings.

Aside from the Amazon threat is the looming issue of just additional competition in the overall tablet space. Intel has said that there are almost two dozen new tablets pending using its processors that will be running one of the versions of Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system.

Microsoft will also be entering the space with its own tablet, called the Surface. Google’s Nexus 7 was released just a few months ago to very favorable reviews and looks to be a long term contender. Then Apple, the overall market leader in the tablet space, is expected to enter the smaller form factor sector next month with a 7-inch iPad.

Barnes & Noble has not yet provided a pricing structure for the video service. Amazon offers its streaming video by the year while Netflix has a per month charge.

Battle of the E-Reader Tablets: Nook vs Kindle Round II

Barnes & Noble has unveiled its next generation Nook tablet

Barnes & Noble, seeking to provide a much more cost effective product to the market, has released its next generation Nook e-reader that will feature 8GB of memory in a 7-inch format with a $199 price tag, significantly lower than its $249 previous offering.

The tablet will feature a 1020 by 600 pixel display, has 1GB of RAM and a 1GHz processor. It includes a microSD card slot that permits the user to add as much as 32GB of additional storage. It has a longer battery life than the earlier version, now running for 11.5 hours reading time or 9 hours viewing videos.

The specs are almost identical to that offered by rival Amazon in some of its Kindle models, which is obviously the player that the Nook is targeted at, but could also erode sales of the company’s Nook Color, which is also very similar. That could be why at the same time as the rollout Barnes & Noble cut the price of its Nook Color, which had been priced at $199, down to $169.

Amazon’s Kindle, driven by the Kindle Fire has been a runaway best seller for the company and has propelled that platform into the second spot in the overall tablet space. Barnes & Noble is generally viewed as the 4th place device manufacturer, but had very strong sales during the holidays, so much so that the company has talked about possibly spinning off the tablet group as a wholly owned subsidiary.

Others not idle

At the same time Research-in-Motion, struggling to make inroads in the tablet space after the poor reception of its initial offering has released the BlackBerry OS 2.0 for its PlayBook tablet. The updated OS includes a greater degree of integration with social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

More importantly it also addresses some of the major deficits that the original version contains including a native calendar, contact and messaging apps. The company also said that there is a growing number of apps in its BlackBerry App World site for the PlayBook.

Tablet market leader Apple is expected to revamp its lineup with the iPad 3 on March 7th, as you may have read, well everywhere. Since it is the market leader it almost inevitably it gets compared to every other offering in the tablet space I believe that the Kindles and Nooks of the world serve a slightly different market.

There is of course overlap, but most users that I know with an e-reader use it for only that, and that is all they want. 10-inch tablet users are often looking for a great deal more in terms of function and applications, a reason that probably helped lead to the poor reception of the initial PlayBook, for instance.

Barnes & Noble May Look to Spin Off the Nook E-Reader

High production costs may mean partners or a spin-off

After a worse than expected quarter and with the growing realization that developing hardware and keeping it competitive is a costly business executives at Barnes & Noble have indicated that it may seek to separate the e-reader business.

The red ink is expected to continue and the company said that it expects to double its losses this year. According to the Wall Street Journal the company does not appear to be seeking to kill the platform but rather to put it on its own to sink or swim as the market dictates.

With its mainstream book selling business being hurt by digital competitors it has been slow to exploit that space, and ceded it to growing rival Amazon with its Kindle and to other tablet makers’ primarily Apple and its iPad.

It had strong holiday sales, with a 70% increase over last year, but failed to meet expectations in sales over the holiday season and that has had a domino effect on sales of related products that are used with the Nook, the company said.

The Nook Color

Barnes & Noble said in a release that it is in discussions with strategic partners including publishers, retailers, and technology companies in international markets that may lead to expansion of the Nook business abroad.

However the company cautioned that it will create a separate Nook business. William Lynch, Chief Executive Officer of Barnes & Noble said “we have a NOOK business that’s growing rapidly year-over-year and should be approximately $1.5 billion in comparable sales this fiscal year.”

A top rival to the Nook is Amazon’s Kindle Fire, which came out of the door hot and sales have been tremendous since then, with it being Amazon’s top selling product the last 13 weeks. Amazon’s ability to tout the platform every time you visit its web site certainly had to help in the marketing of the platform.

However a tear down by iSuppli, that is the disassembly of the product to determine its component cost, shows that it costs more to build a Kindle Fire than Amazon sells it for, and that does not account for the software engineering and other aspects of the device.

It will be interesting to see how this shakes out in the next year or so. The product appears to be a strong platform that performs as users would want. Right now it seems likely that it will find a system manufacturer to partner with to help shift costs, but only time will tell.

The Tablet Market Continues to Fluctuate — Dell Flames out, Kindle Still Burns Hot!

Dell now a two time loser

Dell has quietly withdrawn its Dell Streak 7 tablet from the market, its second failure in the tablet space. The company had previously withdrawn the Dell Streak 5 in August, one of the only, if not the only 5-inch tablets on the market.

The Streak 7 featured a 7-inch display and operated using the Android Honeycomb (3.2) operating system. It came with 16GB of internal storage, Wi-Fi and was powered by a nVidia Tegra processor, had a 1.3MP front facing camera and a 5MP rear facing camera.

It is doubtful that this indicates a permanent departure by Dell from the tablet space. The company said earlier this year that it was working on a Tablet that was capable of operating on Microsoft’s Windows 8 platform. Dell was one of the first to enter the market against Apple’s iPad and Apple still has a tremendously powerful position in the tablet space.

While a solid product at the time of its delivery it failed because at the point it came into the market it was just compared to the iPad. As users become more familiar with tablets, and tablet developers seek to differentiate their products by more than just “speeds and feeds” the market will open up for more players.

People can argue about the Kindle Fire, is it a rival to the iPad or is it not- it certainly seems to be to some extent. Customers that were initially looking at an iPad as a form of e-reader will obviously be a potential cross over group. On the other hand if you want to follow games while on the road the Kindle Fire probably does not fit your usage model.

Fire sales expected to remain strong

The Kindle Fire has had very strong sales, with estimates in the 3.9 million range by the end of the year, making it the number 2 selling Tablet, behind the iPad and ahead of the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Apple sold 11.12 million iPads last quarter so it will take rivals some time to catch it.

The next generation Android products based on Ice Cream Sandwich will likely start eroding Apple’s market share even further, while also growing the market. It will be interesting to see how this shakes out in a year and if we will see additional focused products.

A recent study conducted by the Google’s AdMob shows that the top use for tablets is gaming, with 84% using it for that compared to 78% searching for information and only 51% for music/videos. Why not a tablet designed specifically for this space? I expect we will see one soon.

Mobile Sports Report Monday TechWatch: Is this Kindle for you?

Editor’s note: welcome to our Monday TechWatch feature, where we highlight gizmos, gadgets and devices that help deliver the mobile sports experience. Up today: a look at Amazon’s Kindle Fire.

Amazon’s much hyped Kindle Fire is about to make its long awaited splash in the market and its going to be a great success and its going to be a failure, just read the reviews. So to honor Johnny Cash we have a Ring of Fire today on tablets.

The Kindle Fire will be available tomorrow from Amazon-free shipping no less in 3-5 days!, with a $199 list price and a and is powered by a customized version of the Android operating system. But if you cannot wait the few days for it to arrive you can get into your car, drive down to Best Buy and pick up a model there.

Is the Kindle Fire an iPad killer?

Is the Kindle Fire an iPad killer? Probably not. Does a device need to be an iPad killer to be successful? No. This market looks to be huge and there will be room for a variety of tablets, in a range of forms and usage models, to find willing buyers. In fact market research firm IDC predicts that 62.5 million tablets will ship this year, and those won’t all be iPads.

One reason that the Fire will probably not be a iPad killer, or for that matter any other tablet killer, is that it will, at least initially, have little appeal to businesses. Non-Amazon apps are treated as second class in terms of where they are displayed, but also Amazon is not positioning the Kindle Fire as such a tool. However expect that to change in the future as its price and features apply pressure on its rivals.

While the Fire is the news of the moment Samsung, which has quietly been building very good Android-based phones and tablets gets a top review for its Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus from CNet reviewers who call the device the best 7-inch Honeycomb tablet.

If you are wondering what other uses a tablet are good for we recommend wandering over to look at what the good people at Ooyala have to say; they have been following online video viewership and compiling data for 5 years. In its first report on the topic Ooyala said that tablet users average 30 percent more viewing of online videos than PC users and completed watching 20 percent more than desktop PC users.

Seagate: Storage for Tablets

One of the big drawbacks that tablets have is their limited storage space. A 32GB capacity? Heck that will not cover 10 percent of my music collection. Well storage developer Seagate has a product that could fix this issue. The $199.00 GoFlex Satellite is a 500 GB drive that features a Wi-Fi radio so that you can connect wirelessly and stream music videos or whatever else your heart desires. There is a specialized app for iOS, while Android device users simply need to use their browser to operate. There are issues for Mac users so read the instructions carefully prior to purchasing.

Apple: Original iPod Nano Recall

Aside from tablet news, Apple has suffered from the battery draining issue caused by its recent iOS 5.0 update and now reports are coming in to say that the fix, version 5.0.1 does not fix the problem either. To add to the company’s problems it has been reported that Apple is now forced to recall the original iPod Nano due to heating problems.