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Tech Report – Nook Color gets an upgrade

Barnes & Noble yesterday took another major step in the ongoing transformation of the Nook from a so-so e-reader into a fully-fledged tablet with the announcement of an upgraded operating system and other enhancements like custom apps and Flash support for web browsing.

Although Amazon still has a significantly larger share of the e-reading market with its Kindle device, Barnes & Noble has surprised many with how resilient the Nook has been, perhaps benefitting from the excellent Barnes & Noble online store.

While Barnes & Noble clearly wants to keep the emphasis on reading (it also unveiled a new ad campaign featuring various individuals completely absorbed in their Nooks), it also recognizes that it needs to keep pace with an increasingly crowded tablet market.

Here’s a more detailed look at some of the Nook Color’s new features:

  • Android 2.2 Barnes & Noble has customized Google’s latest operating system just for the Nook Color. As well as all the usual Android features, it offers a much improved browsing experience, including full support for Adobe Flash.

  • E-mail All updated Nook Color devices will now include a custom e-mail app, dubbed Nook Email. Nook Email works with most of the existing mail services, including Yahoo Mail, Gmail, AOL, and Hotmail. (This feature further highlights the surprising absence of a stand-alone e-mail solution for the recently-released BlackBerry PlayBook.)

  • Apps, apps, apps You can’t be considered as a serious tablet contender unless you offer apps. And while Barnes & Noble’s app store can’t compare with Apple’s or the Android Market, it does have a respectable starter selection. The Nook Color will now come pre-loaded with Pandora, Sudoku, Crossword, QuickOffice and others, as well as having access to apps as diverse as Angry Birds, Epicurious, and Oprah Mobile.

  • Embedded video The enhanced Nook Color will now support books with embedded video. While the current selection is small – approx. 225 titles – we can expect the number to grow rapidly as publishers of everything from travel guides to cook books see a golden opportunity to attract more readers.

  • Nook Friends The Nook Color will also come pre-loaded with Nook Friends, a sort of book club/social network for Nook owners. Users will be able to swap books, see what their friends are reading, get their comments on the latest best-seller, and organize group chats.

If you’re an iPad owner, the above enhancements might well elicit a bit of a snicker. When all is said and done, the Nook Color is still an e-reader at heart and not an all-encompassing communication and entertainment device.

But there’s one big advantage that the Nook Color has over all the other tablets, including the iPad – and that’s price. At just $249, the Nook Color is $250 less than the cheapest iPad and that’s a price differential that can't be explained away by just a bigger selection of apps.

If you already have a Nook Color, then you will be prompted when the update is available. You will need to be connected through the built-in Wi-Fi to complete the upgrade. Or, if you would rather not wait, you can initiate a manual update at www.nookcolor.com/update.

Comment by Kittie kat, posted 12/3/2011, 11:43 AM:

I know how much my teenager wants a nook color and this post made it easier to look at it in a good way
Comment by Jean Parks, posted 4/27/2011, 5:15 AM:

Barnes & Noble deserves kudo's for not only making Nook color affordable but also for rolling out promised updates to give user's a fuller experience! The screen on the Nook is probably it's best feature, bright, beautiful, ultra responsive, an excellent value for $249
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