Barnes & Noble has launched a refresh for its Nook Color ereader—and now the company says the device isn’t just an ereader—it’s a competitor in the tablet market that’s considerably cheaper than the Apple iPad. Barnes & Noble’s version 1.2 Nook Color update brings the Nook Color up to Android 2.2 “Froyo,” and adds a selection of applications intended to highlight users’ reading and online experience—and that includes support for Adobe Flash.
“Nook Color offers the best reading experience of any device, and now delivers the most popular tablet features such as engaging apps so customers can play, learn and explore, free, built-in email, an Android operating system update for enhanced Web browsing and more interactive content,” said Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch, in a statement.
The Nook Color’s app capabilities don’t extend to the full range of applications available for Android-based smartphones and other tablets; instead, Barnes & Noble has partnered with app makers to offer a “collection of top quality apps” designed to specifically complement reading experiences. Apparently that includes games and music, since things like Angry Birds, Uno, and Pandora are now available for the Nook Color, along with things like Epicurious, Dr. Seuss, More Brain Exercise, and Drawing Pad. Initially, Barnes & Noble says “more than 125″ apps are available from third-party developers, and the company plans to continue making more apps available. Both free and paid apps are available: about half the existing apps are available for $2.99 or less apiece, while the “vast majority” are priced under $5.99.
In addition, updated Nook Color devices will get a selection of free apps, including calendar and notes, Nook Email, Nook Friends (a beta social network for “people who love to read”), and a “more complete” Web experience with an updated Web browser and Adobe Flash support.
The Nook Color 1.2 update is available for free download, and the company says free updates will begin rolling out to customers via Wi-Fi “in the coming weeks.”
Barnes & Noble is keen to position the 7-inch Nook Color as more than an ereader: according to the company, the device is a full-fledged tablet sporting all the key features of mainstream tablet devices: entertainment, portability, a touch screen, and customization via apps. Barnes & Noble is also happy to emphasize the Nook Color’s $249 price tag makes it half the cost of Apple’s lowest-price iPad 2. However, while the addition of an applications gallery and an upgrade to Android 2.2 Froyo definitely make the Nook Color more than just an ereader, with 8 GB of internal memory, an 800MHz processor, and no 3G capabilities, it still has a long way to go before it can match other tablet devices in terms of performance and flexibility. However, if consumers are just looking for a basic tablet that can surf the Web, check email, read books, and play Angry Birds, the Nook Color may be just the ticket.