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March 2011
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Nook Color Firmware Update Moves it from Kindle Competitor to iPad Competitor

Recent news regarding the Nook Color‘s new features should go a long way toward illustrating the direction that the mini-tablet is likely to take in the near future.  While many have never viewed it as serious eReader competition for the Kindle, this seemed to be the hope that Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) had for the device.  It seems they’re coming to their senses a bit and realizing the real potential of their affordably priced tablet.

To sum the situation up a bit, a recent offering on the Home Shopping Network let slip certain information about upcoming features for the Nook.  Most notably, it will be the first tablet on the market to include Flash support.  In addition to this, there will finally be support for email, as well as an app store to expand the capabilities of the device.  It seems that a viewer managed to capture the segment and post it on YouTube, which then prompted Barnes & Noble to issue a press release confirming the email, though not yet the Flash.

This definitely seems like a divergence from the previously staunch position that the Nook Color must be seen as a reading device first and foremost.  It makes a lot of sense.  Users seem largely to value the newest Nook incarnation for either its tablet capabilities or its color screen rather than any percieved inherently superior reading performance.  Really, while I’m not a fan of it as an eReader, this should make Barnes & Noble into a major player in the tablet competition.

The press release also emphasizes the importance of the Nook platform’s magazine and children’s book offerings.  Since these are the areas where the color screen really shines, given the shortcomings of a monochrome display for such applications, it definitely makes sense to see the focus turn this way.  I think there’s a lot of future in the marketing of children’s books in particular, things along the lines of NOOK Kids, for the less expensive and versatile tablets on the market today even if they fall short in other areas.  Great for actually getting in the hands of kids.

The effect of these upcoming changes on the Kindle in the end seems destined to be fairly negligible.  There’s a good chance that this will end the direct Kindle vs Nook Color comparisons for many, since it indicates an emphasis on non-book aspects of reading as well as non-reading applications.  That’s something.  Really, though, it feels like this is more an indication of how successful the Kindle has been than anything else.  The rush to a color eReader hasn’t succeeded because it meant a number of compromises that Amazon didn’t make, so they’re moving into a slightly different field.  It could also be that this is meant as a means to get a jump on Amazon in light of the rumors that have been going around about a potential Kindle-related line of tablet PCs.

The software update is supposed to drop in April, by all accounts, so be on the lookout for it.  I believe that this will breathe new life into the Nook Color for existing users as well as bring in a large new audience.

9 comments to Nook Color Firmware Update Moves it from Kindle Competitor to iPad Competitor

  • Bulldog

    What was also interesting about the Home shopping network broadcast was the price. They were asking $299.00. Fifty dollars more than at any BN store.

  • Matt

    “Most notably, it will be the first tablet on the market to include Flash support.”

    The Xoom already supports Flash.

  • Van

    Since it doesn’t use a real eInk screen, but LCD, the Nook color isn’t a real ereader anyway.
    I am still looking forward for Mirasol or Liquavista or whatever other technology able to provide good colors on a true epaper screen.

  • trellis

    Even without the update, it is a huge tablet competitor. Rooting the nook is incredibly simple, and it gives you almost full android capabilities (which is doubtful that the B&N update will do) including the entire market and access to the amazon appstore. For $250, I didn’t even think about NOT getting it over the Xoom or Galaxy Tab.

  • I don’t envy the people at Barnes and Noble going from competing against a giant to a goliath.

    Will include Flash support? Please. I think this guy said it right here: http://jpteti.com/post/4072771125/the-ipad-is-99-more-open-than-any-other-computer

    Seems to be others aren’t really able to bring anything new to the reader/tablet market so they stick to including things others left out.

    Go Amazon and Apple!

  • phoneboy

    This being an unofficial Kindle site, Its not surprising to read that the Nook Color is not a competitor in the Ereader category. I have to disagree. The NC IS an Ereader/media consumption device. Ebooks/magazines/Newspapers/web surfing/music/movies and soon to come flash support will give the consumer more media choices. Add to that the wide variety of choices to purchase content and your hard pressed to deny it as direct competition. For the most part, the eink comparison is DOA since the eye strain fears have been put to rest. Not bashing Kindle just stating my opinion. In the end the consumers will decide.

  • rogerdugans

    Hmmm, funny thing- the Nook Color is an e-reader that directly competes with the Kindle and some people think it isn’t an e-reader because it does not have a monochromatic screen?? Strange thing, that… just thinking about all the magazines that are published in color, and children’s book as well as graphic novels.

    Print books are not always monochromatic, why should an e-reader be?

    As for the idea of it competing with tablets- why yes it can, which is pretty good for an e-reader.

    BTW- I do know of two of the main reasons people prefer e-ink screens:
    battery life which is definitely far better
    eye strain which goes both ways. Many of us have fewer problems with the color screen.

    Plenty of room in the e-reader market for long-life battery e-ink readers and shorter runtime color devices with expanded reading options.

  • Dmc

    The idea that an ipad does more than a computer is ignorant. It does not even do all that a computer does and should do. So it does Facebook, great, yippee, so what? A real computer is used for far more than social networking, but then this is all about the dumbing down of our country, isn’t it? Social networking is ruining us, because we now can do or say anything without realizing or paying attention to the consequences and realtime face to face interaction with all the nuance and emotion involved.

    Apple and Amazon are closing their devices to competition, not due to any love of their customers, but in order to ensure their customers do not go elsewhere. Apple is what people hated most about Microsoft, anti-competition, anti-consumer, proprietary, and overly expensive. The kindle and Amazon are trying to mimic Apple’s model. Just google Apple and the Agency Model pricing for ebooks to see how much Apple cares about customers. Oh, it’s not on Facebook? Duh!

  • David Lang

    what you are not understanding is that the issue with the Color LCD isn’t that it’s color, it’s the bright-light readability and battery life.

    the benefits of the LCD are almost exclusively for non-reading functions (yes, color is sometimes nice to have when reading a book, but the vast majority of books get by just fine without it, and of those that do use color, most of them really want a larger, higher-resolution display than is available on any reader or tablet)

    the kindle is a single purpose device (with a limited ability to edge into other areas), but for that purpose it is far better than the ipad.

    does that mean that there is never anyone who buys an ipad instead of a kindle? no.

    but real-world experience shows that people who primarily want to read vastly prefer the kindle, and people who primarily want a portable computer want a tablet.

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