Tablet wars heat up as Barnes & Noble unveils $249 Nook Tablet

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Barnes & Noble is charging into the cut-price tablet wars with the Nook Tablet, a $249 lightweight tablet optimzed for reading e-books, streaming movies and browsing the Web.

The new Nook Tablet is the next-generation evolution of the Nook Color device that Barnes & Noble unveiled last year, which also carried a $249 price tag. It will compete head-to-head with Amazon's Kindle Fire, a $199 tablet that begins shipping next week. B&N's Nook Tablet will be available in its stores on Nov. 17, two days after Amazon begins shipping pre-ordered Kindle Fires. The 7-inch tablet offers a more powerful processor and twice the storage capacity of Amazon's rival.

"Kindle Fire is deficient for a media tablet," B&N CEO William Lynch proclaimed at the Nook Tablet's launch event Monday in New York City. "Content will render better on Nook than on Kindle Fire."

He also took a potshot at Amazon's all-virtual empire, saying that B&N's 700 retail stores would be able to offer customers tech support and aid with their Nook devices.

"Where will you go for Kindle Fire, Amazon in seattle?" Lynch quipped.

B&N also on Monday slashed the entry-level price for its Nook line of digital readers to $99 -- a price point analysts have long predicted would fuel widespread adoption of the gadgets. Its year-old Nook Color dropped in price to $199.

B&N and Amazon have been locked in a price war to offer the cheapest e-reading devices, but for now, Amazon still has the edge. Its least-expensive, black-and-white e-ink Kindle sells for $79 for an ad-supported version. Amazon's ad-free version costs $109, or $10 more than B&N's comparable Nook Simple Touch Reader. The fight between the two bookselling giants has grown fierce, with each angling for exclusive content and other advantages. Amazon scored a coup recently when it convinced DC Comics to hand over digital rights to some of its comics for Kindle exclusive editions. In retaliation, Barnes & Noble stripped the print editions of those comics from its stores last month, and said it would not resume stocking them until it too had rights to sell a digital edition.

 
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