Oct. 26, 2010 at 4:40 PM ET
Barnes & Noble today gathered the New York press to an event where they unveiled the next Nook, a full-color LCD tablet, that it will hit Walmart and Best Buy (as well as B&N stores) for $249, on or around Nov. 19.
The Nook Color, as it'll awkwardly be known, has a 7-inch touch screen. It will have a variety of channels that resemble apps, from partners including Facebook, Twitter, Pandora and the magazine publishers Hearst, Conde Nast and National Geographic. Both FB and Twitter will be part of a "Nook Friends" mode that is heavily social. It's got a Web browser, and "Nook Extras" will include crossword puzzles, Sudoku and chess.
The tablet will connect via Wi-Fi, not 3G. It'll have a battery life of "up to 8 hours ... with wireless off," says the spec page.
Though it's technically an Android tablet, it isn't a fully functioning slate computer like the iPad or the Samsung Galaxy Tab. That is to say, you won't get Google's Android Market for apps. However, according to Gizmodo, a Barnes & Noble rep did say that they will be building their app business, but that "developers have to develop them exclusively for the Nook Color." There's a chance that existing apps built for Android will be able to be ported over, but it's not clear how that process will work. There's certainly no guarantee of openness, here, but there's a glimmer of hope.
According to the spec page, the tablet will play MP4 video, but Gizmodo reports that it will not Adobe's Flash. Supported music formats include both MP3 and AAC.
The device will come with 8GB of internal memory plus a MicroSD slot to add more storage. The screen has a resolution of 1024x600, and a glare-resistant coating, which will hopefully prevent the insane reflections you get when trying to read an iPad outside on a sunny day.
Though a full-color LCD-based tablet is a welcome shift from the gray-and-black e-ink readers, it remains to be seen how well Barnes & Noble can sell these things. Amazon has made a business out of selling monochrome Kindles, at ever decreasing prices and at ever increasing volumes, but nobody else has seen success in e-ink. LCD tablets are more mass friendly, since they do more, but this move makes Barnes & Noble a direct competitor to Apple, whose iPad already runs a Nook app. A better example of the term "frenemies" would be hard to name. The price is incredible, but it suggests there's something limited about the performance, and only testing will tell us how much.