After a humble beginning with a color e-book reader merely built upon the Android platform, Barnes & Noble heard the community and has embraced its tablet destiny.
With a substantial Android 2.2 software update released yesterday, the B&N Nook Color is now more multimedia tablet device than e-book reader. However, unlike a full-fledged Android tablet, the NC retains a custom reading-centric skin. By the same token, the Nook also retains modest $250 e-reader pricing — about half the cost of competing gadgetry like the Apple iPad or Motorola Xoom.
So what exactly separates a digital reader from a computing platform? It’s got to be the newly unveiled Nook Apps, featuring the requisite Angry Birds, at launch. With Barnes & Noble as the gatekeeper, though, it’ll be interesting to see what sorts of non-reading experiences it promotes — or even allow in. For example, I doubt we’ll see an official Amazon Kindle app any time soon.
Beyond third party software, B&N has also rounded out the Nook Color with a native email client and enhanced the Web browser — which should feel more responsive and now handles Flash content. To some degree.
Of course, Barnes & Noble isn’t the only game in town. And we strongly suspect Amazon is readying a Kindle competitor. An Android-based Kindle makes a lot of sense given Amazon’s recently released app store and large library digital content beyond books, including a video-on-demand storefront and MP3s.
The new Barnes & Noble Nook Color update is currently available via download and requires a simple manual installation. Or, you can sit back and await the network push which will roll out in waves over the next few weeks.
Check out more of Dave’s reflections on tech and media at Zatz Not Funny.