Friday Grab Bag: Firefox Smartphones and No Nook Future?

NFL has Concussion iPad app

The NFL is providing team doctors with an iPad application that is designed to help the doctors more accurately judge weather a player has a concussion or not. It was demonstrated last week at the annual NFL scouting combine.

It has creating a scoring system that can be used to quickly check if there is a large difference between the players’ baseline score and his gameday score. It will be used as one of the tools that a doctor will use to make gametime decisions.

Firefox for Phones
Mozilla has started showing its first commercial build of the Firefox operating system and has unveiled partners as part of its effort to move into the smartphone space, a move that has already garnered support from both phone makers and carriers.

The initial phones are expected to be from Alcatel One Touch, LG Electronics and ZTE, with Huawei Technologies also planning a late in the year release, according to Computerworld UK. 8 operators are also lining up behind Firefox OS, including América Móvil, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, Japan’s KDDI, Sprint, Telecom Italia, Telefónica and Telenor, with the operators planning to first launch phones in Brazil, Colombia, Hungary, Mexico, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Spain and Venezuela.

Nook on the chopping block?
There has been talk that the founder of major bookseller Barnes & Nobles, Leonard Riggio, who just happens to be its chairman and largest shareholder, is looking at buying back the retail portion of the business.

He filed a plan with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the plan has no mention of its Nook and e-reader business. That portion of the business lost $262 million last year and reported a huge decline in sales over the recent holiday season, with revenue falling 25.9% in its Nook business.

2013 World Baseball Classic Starts Today
Or rather it starts broadcasting on the MLB Network, as teams have been fighting for position over the past several months in qualifying rounds. The first game pops up on the air at 11:30 p.m. ET and the network continues with all 39 games of the tournament including the Championship game that is scheduled to be played on Tuesday, March 19 at 8:00 p.m. ET.

There are four pools of teams playing, each with four nations represented in each pool. The United States is matched up with Canada, Italy and Mexico and the games will be played in Phoenix between March 7-10.

Hewlett-Packard unloads webOS
Lost amid Hewlett-Packard’s announcement of a low cost Android tablet was the fact that the company has sold its webOS mobile operating system to LG Electronics which plans to use it in forthcoming Internet connected televisions.

HP’s current tablet, the Slate 7, is powered by the Android operating system but its first shot at the market was with its TouchPad, a tablet that was powered by the webOS operating system and was met with a very poor reception.

Barnes & Noble Unveil High Definition Nook Tablet

Barnes & Noble has expanded its tablet offerings with a pair of new offerings including the first high definition models as the company is once again going head to head with rival Amazon and its tablet offerings.

The latest from Barnes & Noble is the Nook HD and the Nook HD+, with the Nook HD seeking to stake out the low cost leader in the 7-inch high definition space and the 9-inch Nook HD+ seeking to do the same in the larger screen space.

The Nook HD features a 1440 x 900 display that is capable of 720p HD video playback, with a standard 8GB of storage that is expandable to 16GB, running a version of Android 4.0 operating system and powered by a dual core 1.3GHz OMAP 4470 processor. It does not feature a front facing camera or NFC capabilities.

The Nook HD+ features a nine inch display that has a 1920 x 1280 pixel resolution and comes with 16GB storage as standard that can be upgraded with a microSD card to 32GB. It is also powered by the TI OMAP 4470 processor, this one running at 1.5GHz.

The arrival of these tablets was not that big of a surprise for two reasons. The first was the simple need to keep up with the Jones, or in this case Amazon and the second was that the company had announced its streaming video service and that almost certainly meant having a HD device to view the video. Both tablets are due in late October and the Nook HD will start at $199 and the Nook HD+ will be available at $269.

Barnes & Noble is touting the wide array of content for the devices including its large catalog of digital books. The Nook Store has been revamped and features 3 million books including nearly 3,500 children’s interactive picture books as well as a growing collection of comic books and graphic novels.

The streaming video service will be called Nook Video and will launch in late October. The service will feature TV shows as well as HD movies that can be downloaded and viewed. Among the studios that they have licensed content from are HBO, STARZ, The Walt Disney Studios and Warner Brothers Entertainment.

The latest generation of Nook devices can also be connected to a television so that a user can view the videos in full 1080p. The content can also be viewed on tablets and smartphones via the Nook video app.

Other areas that it has either added new features or support are in its UltraViolet support enabling the integration of physical DVDs and Blu-ray discs that have the UltraViolet logo from Barnes & Noble with the Nook.

The Newsstand has been revised with a new look and allow you to select only specific sections of a paper if so desired. The Magazine 2.0 allows readers to cut out pictures and just read text if they want and has a feature called Nook Scrapbook for clipping pages and saving them. The Nook Apps offers a range of apps for the tablets, with currently around 6,000 available.

The move comes both in time to help maintain its position as a top provider of tablets at a time when the competition, now from Amazon but soon from others as well, is increasing. It still trails rival Amazon in apps available, as well as Amazon having a huge set of additional services that are well established and familiar with its customers, something that will help propel Kindle HD sales.

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.

Bookeen Seeks to Break Into U.S. E-Reader Market

French E-Book developer Bookeen seeks to break into US market with its Cybook Odyssey, a reader that incorporates the company’s high speed interface that it claims will help differentiate its platform from rivals.

The reader features a 6-inch E Ink Pearl with 800 x 600 pixel touch display. It is powered by an 800MHz Texas Instruments Cortex 8A OMAP3611 processor with 128MB of memory. The Wi-Fi only system comes with 2GB of on board storage that it said can store as many as 2,000 e-books. This is expandable to 32GB with the microSDHC slot.

The user interface is available in 23 languages and it uses Linux 2.6.31 as its operating system. It will initially ship with 100 books already preloaded, with 30 in English and currently only a French dictionary.

The reader supports open book format such as ePub and PDF. It also has MP3 music and supports JPEG, PNG, GIF, TIF and other picture formats.

The company used the International Consumer Electronics Show as the backdrop for its introduction and said that the $159.99 Cybook Odyssey will be delivered to U.S. retailers in the near future and is currently available from the company’s web site. The company said that different sizes models are likely in the pipeline as well as color models.

It looks like this could be a hard sell. With much greater name awareness and market presence rival eBook developers such as Amazon with its Kindle lineup and Barnes & Noble with its Nook lineup are already well on their way to dominating this space.

Bookeen will need to show strong advantages over these two in order to become an established player, and right now its price and performance do not set it apart, but this is just a step so it will be worth following to see what the company develops going forward.

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.