Nook Color gets Froyo update and app store

Developer program for Nook now has 5,000 members

Barnes & Noble on Monday announced a major update to its Nook Color tablet that includes access to a new app store and a built-in email system for organizing Web mail accounts. The upgrade, Version 1.2, also features Android 2.2 (Froyo) and Adobe Flash Player for video viewing.

Also, Barnes & Noble said its new Nook Developer program now includes 5,000 developers building quality apps on the Android platform, including 125 new apps in the new Nook App store.

With these enhancements, the 7-in., 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.

In comparison, Apple's popular 9.7-in. 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 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 post on Monday, after trying out Version 1.2 of the device.

"But for 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 store.

The Nook Color Version 1.2 is available today as a free manual download; it will be available over the air via Wi-Fi starting next week.

Barnes & Noble is also starting a new advertising campaign for the Nook Color. Developed by the Mullen advertising agency, it will include broadcast, print and online ads.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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