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巴诺平板性能不错,市场热销或有难度

JP Mangalindan 2011年11月10日

苹果和亚马逊正在平板电脑市场上展开激战,美国最大的连锁书商巴诺也不甘人后。但它的Nook平板有希望热卖吗?

    Nook平板的系统固件也升级到了1.4版。之前的版本允许用户在主屏上设置自己喜欢的主题,靠简单的手势操作就可以重新设置电子书封面图标的大小。而新版固件则在屏幕底部加入了一个媒体快捷键栏,可以迅速访问应用、音乐和新闻订阅。屏幕右上角还有一个下拉窗口,可以显示最近浏览过的内容。

    与老款Nook Color相比,双核处理器和双倍的RAM无疑带来了更迅速、更流畅的操作体验。我初次接触Nook平板的时间虽然有限,但至少可以证明这一点。手指的缩放和扫动操作都比在老款上快,不过可能还比不上iPad2那样均匀地流畅,但速度上的提高还是显而易见的。像Netflix Instant和Hulu Plus这种人气很高的流媒体应用也可以在Nook上轻松播放720p分辨率的清晰视频。(可惜老款的Nook Color哪怕升级到1.4版固件也仍然无法通过流媒体播放720p视频——只有Nook平板才行。)

不过这款产品真的会热卖吗?

    Nook平板的推出时机对于巴诺来说十分重要。亚马逊凭借CEO杰夫•贝索斯上月发布的4款电子阅读设备在美国引起了巨大的轰动(其中就包括199美元的安卓平板Kindle Fire)。但亚马逊此举实乃赔钱抢市,它的每台平板可能都赔本10美元到50美元。看来亚马逊宁可在利润上承受一笔巨大的损失,也要把尽可能多的Kindle Fire平板送进消费者手中,好让他们去使用自己海量的在线服务。亚马逊在电子阅读器领域占有61%的市场份额,而且据分析人士预测,今年四季度Kindle Fire的销量可能达到500万台,这意味着巴诺必须有所行动。

    在发布会上,巴诺CEO威廉•林奇很快指出了Nook平板强悍的硬件规格;谈到竞争问题,他也没有遮遮掩掩,还通过幻灯片逐逐条解释了两款产品从内存到设计上的种种区别。“Kindle Fire作为一款媒体平板是不足的,它的代工商和黑莓PlayBook平板是同一家,所以它们才长得这么像。”

    等到Nook平板正式发布时,它还面临着一个大问题:既然消费者可以以更低的价格买到亚马逊的Kindle Fire,或是打折促销的Nook Color,那么他们是否还愿意多掏50美元去买Nook平板?福雷斯特公司(Forrester)的分析师萨拉•罗特曼•艾普斯认为,Nook平板还是有市场的。她认为巴诺在今年的假期季中大概会卖出150万至200万台Nook平板。她说:“Nook Color平板当初也是一匹不太引人注目的黑马。”据她估计,到目前为止,Nook Color平板的销量可能在500万到700万台之间。这可能还比不上Kindle Fire的销量预测,更不用说iPad 2高达800万台的第四季度销量预期,但也同样不容小觑。

    译者:朴成奎

    The Nook Tablet runs on updated Nook software, version 1.4. Previous versions let users arrange favorite titles on the home screen and resize book covers with a quick pinch; the newer software adds media shortcuts in a pane near the bottom for quick access to apps, music, newsstands and music. In the upper right, a drop-down window shows recently browsed items.

    The dual-core processor and doubled RAM promises a faster, smoother experience. My limited, initial time with the device proved at least that much. Pinch-to-zoom and swiping appeared faster, maybe not as uniformly smooth as, say, the iPad 2, but the speed bump is noticeable. New apps like Netflix (NFLX) Instant and Hulu Plus, which may be a big draw, streamed sharp video in 720p resolution. (Unfortunately, 720p streaming will not be available for Nook Color owners, even after they upgrade to v. 1.4 -- that much is exclusive to Nook Tablet.)

But will it sell?

    The Nook Tablet comes at an important time for the company. Amazon (AMZN) made a splash last month when CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled four new e-reader models, including the Kindle Fire, a $199 Android-based reading tablet. Amazon is losing anywhere between $10 and $50 per unit on. The e-commerce giant appears willing to take a hit on profit so it can get as many Kindle Fires into customers' hands as possible and hook them onto its myriad online services. Amazon's 61% market share in the e-reader space and analyst predictions that the Kindle Fire could sell up to 5 million units during the fourth quarter meant Barnes and Noble had to make a move.

    During the unveiling, CEO William Lynch was quick to point out the Nook Tablet's superior hardware specifications and didn't mince words when it came to the competition. "The Kindle Fire is deficient for a media tablet," he said, going through a side-by-side slide show presentation highlighting the differences, from to storage capacity to design. "The Fire has the same manufacturer as the PlayBook. That's why they look alike."

    When the Nook Tablet launches, it faces a big question: Will consumers pay $50 more for it when they can pick up the Kindle Fire -- or the discounted Nook Color -- for less? Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps believes they will. She projects Barnes & Noble will move between 1.5 and 2 million units this holiday season. "The Nook Color was a sleeper success," says Epps, which she estimates has sold between 5 and 7 million units to date. That might not measure up to Kindle Fire predictions and estimated iPad sales of 8 million domestically during the fourth quarter, but it's nothing to scoff at either.

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