Barnes & Noble treats Nook Color to Froyo; unveils Nook Apps

Just as promised, Barnes & Noble rolled out a major update for the Nook Color on Monday, which has the 7-inch slate looking even more like a tablet than an e-book reader now.

Just as promised, Barnes & Noble rolled out a major update for the Nook Color on Monday, which has the 7-inch slate looking even more like a tablet than an e-book reader now.

There's no need to hack the Nook Color into an Android tablet anymore as B&N is giving out the power for free. The biggest feature found in the v1.2 firmware update is the inclusion of Android 2.2. Additionally, alongside this upgraded operating system, there is yet another mobile app store open for business: Nook Apps.

There are approximately 125 apps available immediately that are customized for the Nook Color. Sure, that might not seem like a huge number, but even Apple's iTunes App Store started small. Furthermore, developers are welcome to continue submitting apps and using the tools that B&N has already provided.

Free apps are available, mainly for the organizational basics such as for calendars and notes. Otherwise, a large quantity is priced at $5.99 or less while approximately half of the collection retails for $2.99 each or less.

The Nook Color even has something that the BlackBerry PlayBook doesn't have (at least for now): a pre-loaded e-mail app! Nook Email is a simple app, much like the mobile browser version of Gmail. It even looks a bit like the iPhone's Mail app, and like that program, Nook Mail is ready for most of the major web-based email services such as Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail and AOL.

Speaking of familiar apps, there are plenty available in Nook Apps that we've seen elsewhere now optimized for this device, such as Pulse (as seen on the iPad), Epicurious, Lonely Planet phrasebooks, and of course, Angry Birds. (Let's face it: no device that supports gaming apps could go without Angry Birds these days.)

However, thanks to the inclusion of Adobe Flash Player support in this firmware update, the line between apps and books is becoming somewhat blurred. Interactive features (mainly videos) appear in over 150 digital magazines and newspapers available on the device, along with more than 225 titles. This is best seen (and most useful) in two places: cookbooks (for obvious reasons) and children's books, where the Nook Color is the strongest in comparison to other e-book readers and even most tablets.

Some of the most classic children's books, including Dr. Seuss' Cat in the Hat, has been designed especially for this device with learning games, drawing activities and more to make children's stories literally jump off the digital page. It's quite smart for Barnes & Noble to focus on this market as there aren't any other tablets or e-book readers to speak of (with maybe the exception of the iPad) that really offer so much for children.

Again, the interactive offerings are a bit limited at first, but the SDK has only been out for a few months. Adobe AIR is also included in this firmware update, so that should speed up the development process exponentially. If you're a developer interested in creating some apps for this platform, joining the developer program is free, and developers will receive 70% of the revenue from any paid app purchased by B&N customers.

The software upgrade is available immediately to download manually, or Nook Color owners can wait for the over-the-air release via Wi-Fi within the next week.

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