Which Matters More, the Device or the Ecosystem?

Chris Selland is a Boston-based technology industry analyst & startup executive.  Currently, he is an Expert Advisor for Focus Research and blogs at terametric.com.

Although I have an Android tablet that supports content from both Amazon & Barnes & Noble, I took a hard look at both Kindle and Nook devices during the holidays. Partly because I wanted a companion device to bring to the beach/pool/etc… and partly because the idea of a cheap tablet had some appeal.

What struck me was that, excepting price, on almost every aspect the Nook devices (both B&W readers & tablets) were clearly superior to the Amazon devices.

Yet I eventually wound up buying a Kindle because, quite simply, Amazon has an ecosystem build around their content that B&N doesn’t have.

So I have to question whether separating the Nook unit from the rest of Barnes & Noble is going to help. Seems much more likely this is prelude to a breakup and selloff of the assets.

I also wonder how Apple will respond. I am fully aware that the iPad is a superior device (although I’d argue that Android tablets are closing that gap rapidly) but, as beautiful as they are, whether Apple can continue to sell a premium-priced tablet with a mostly-closed content ecosystem is highly questionable. Yes the Kindle Fire is even more closed, but at a much lower price point. The dynamics that play out throughout 2012 should be interesting indeed.

Personally, the ‘I can use anybody’s content’ (except Apple’s) nature of my Xoom makes Android superior – and an experience I’m willing to pay a premium for. And now I have a Kindle too to bring to the beach.

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