Barnes & Noble announced a major update to its Nook Color tablet Monday that includes access to a new app store, including an email app for organizing Web mail accounts. The upgrade also has Android 2.2 (Froyo) with Adobe Flash Player for video viewing.
Also, important to developers, Barnes & Noble announced a Nook Developer program for building Nook apps.
With these enhancements, the 7-inch, Wi-Fi-ready Nook Color tablet, with a price tag of $249, “presents the best value of any tablet on the market,” at about half the cost of other popular tablets, Barnes and Noble CEO William Lynch said in making the announcement. The Nook Color first went on sale Nov. 19.
By comparison, Apple’s popular 9.7-inch iPad 2 starts at $499. But the iPad 2 has a tremendous head start in the market over the enhanced Nook Color and recent entries such as the BlackBerry PlayBook. IPad 2 also has access to many more applications—about 65,000 compared to about 125 from Nook apps so far.
“The Nook Color with its new Froyo upgrade is not an iPad — not even close,” wrote Gartner analyst Allen Weiner in a blog entry posted Monday, after trying out the device with the new version’s 1.2 enhancements.
“But those who are looking for a great cross-media reading device with some nice new multimedia bells and whistles, it remains a go-to device,” Weiner said.
Weiner said the best things about the improved Nook Color “are all reading-related.” He said one of the better new features is a beta version of Nook Friends, a social app for sharing, buying and recommending books.
Weiner was also unsure how many developers would build apps for the Nook Apps app store.
The new features come in the Nook Color version 1.2 upgrade that is available free today online for manual download or over-the-air via Wi-Fi starting next week.
Barnes & Noble is also starting a new advertising campaign for the Nook Color that was developed by the Mullen advertising agency to include broadcast, print and online ads.