We didn’t think Barnes & Noble were idly sitting by while Amazon jumped the spotlight with its new Kindle Fire tablet. After all, June of this year saw Nook sales (reputedly) overtake Kindle for the first time. [I say reputedly because neither company announces actual sales figures.] The lack of a Kindle color-screen device was the reported reason; the Kindle Fire convincingly addresses that hole in Amazon’s lineup.
Today, B&N announced an updated lineup of Nooks (compare). They took a jab at the competition in the process. The big news is a Nook Tablet for $249 ($50 premium over the competing Fire). Among the advantages B&N touts over its rival are availability through retail partners (Best Buy, Target, Walmart) and in-store support. They’re clearly taking a page from the Apple Retail Store playbook here :
None of Apple’s rival companies have any sort of physical real-world relationship with customers like Apple does. Google, Amazon, Samsung, HTC, Dell — we interact with these companies only via our screens, or in generic big-box retail stores like Best Buy. Microsoft is flailing in its attempts to mimic Apple’s retail effort, but they at least seem to recognize that Apple is using its retail stores to build a tangible emotional relationship with millions and millions of people. [Full citation; some scrolling required]
B&N also emphasized that its low-end model, the Nook Simple Touch, is available at a lower price without ads. They’re not neglecting entry-level devices. And, of course, they’re taking another not-so-subtle jab at the competition.
For my money, this “low-end” competition between Amazon and B&N is the most compelling at the moment. While companies like HTC announce new (vaporware) tablets that aim to avoid the “me-too” syndrome, Amazon and B&N actually deliver on that promise. It’s gonna be one hella holiday sales season.
 B&N has a ways to go with its in-store presence; the Nook is almost an afterthought in many B&N locations and will likely fare worse at its retail partners. Update: New evidence suggests B&N is expanding its in-store Nook presence.