Barnes and Noble released their long-awaited nook Color v1.2 update today, bringing Email, Angry Birds and other apps to their e-reading tablet while also beefing up the device's Web browser with Flash support. The update also rolled out the bookseller's new "Nook Friends" social network-cum-library and added new periodicals and "enhanced" interactive books to the nook's virtual store shelves. In other words, B&N added some oft-requested features to what might just be my current favorite tablet for everyman.
While tech-savvy tinkerers have long been able to run ports of Android 2.x and 3.0 on nook Color via microSD card installs, today's update officially brings the $249 device into the world of tablets. On the one hand, an 800 MHz processor, Android 2.2, and a 7″ display aren't the sort of specs that make the fanboys drool. But on the other hand, Barnes & Noble isn't exactly Fry's Electronics: Nook Color buyers are more likely to cross-shop Kindles and iPads than Xooms and G-Slates, which means that B&N is right to play to its strengths in this update, offering an ultra-clean, easy to use user interface, no-fuss Email setup, and a limited selection of apps developed specifically for the device's specs and design language.
The result is a light and easy tablet experience, and I mean that both literally and figuratively. One of my favorite nook Color features is its form factor and another is its clean simplicity. Today's update obviously didn't add any heft or girth to the machine, and it didn't do a lot to complicate the user experience, either. As you'll see in the video, there are still a few kinks to be ironed out, but so far these are mainly of the design variety, including home screen app icons that lack graphics or otherwise don't quite fit in with their book cover brethren.
Are Web browsing with Flash, Email, and a fledgling app store enough to sway would-be Kindle buyers away from iPad 2 and towards the smaller, less expensive nook Color? And can a bookstore really compete in the consumer electronics space? So far they have, with some three million nook Colors sold to date. But can they keep it up?
Check out part one of this hands-on with the nook Color update, keep an eye out for a few more videos to come, and sound off in the comments.