The first great Android Tablet: Nook Color

The first really great Android tablet may already be here: Barnes & Noble's Nook Color.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Let's get real. There are only two great tablets out there today: Apple's iPad and the iPad 2. Android has always had the potential to be a wonderful tablet operating system, but most Android tablets have been non-starters and, even the best of them, the Samsung Galaxy Tab aren't as good as an iPad. But, the iPad may soon have a serious Android opponent: Barnes & Noble's Nook Color.

I know what you're thinking: The Nook Color!? It's an e-reader, sure you can root the Nook Color into being a full scale Android tablet, but you don't want to hack my e-reader and void my warranty just to get a cheap tablet that might, or might not, work.

Who said anything about rooting it? While rooting a Nook Color is quite easy--watch huskermania's YouTube video on how to do it if you don't believe me--Barnes & Noble will be upgrading the Color Nook to being a real Android tablet in mid-April. In its press release, the book store giant states only that, "NOOK Color will get even better this Spring when a major update to the device's firmware will offer customers access to explore exciting new applications, e-mail and many other requested features." Sources tell me though that the Color Nook will be upgraded from Android 2.1 to Android 2.2 (Froyo), be given Flash video support, and will have its own version of the Google Android Apps Market.

As reported by ZDNet's sister network, CNET, the Home Shopping Network, of all places, has been advertising the Color Nook's forthcoming firmware upgrade. This news comes as no surprise. I've been predicting that it was only a matter of time before the Android Linux-based e-readers, like the Nook and Android's Kindle, were upgraded into tablets.

Now you may be thinking, sure the Nook Color is nice, but how can it compete with an iPad? It only has a 7" display, 8GBs of internal storage, a micro-SD card slot for up to 32GBs of additional storage, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, and an 800MHz ARM Cortex A8-processor. You're right, that's smaller and slower than an iPad and a good deal slower than an iPad 2.

So what? Here's the important point: You can pick up a new Nook Color for $249. The cheapest new iPad2? $499.

I've said it before, I'll say it again, Apple is the Mercedes-Benz, the Rolls-Royce, of computing hardware. That's fine, but it still leaves lots of room for the mid and low-end market users and now, with this update to the Nook Color coming down the road we're finally going to have a compelling, inexpensive Android tablet for the Toyota or Ford "drivers."

See Also:

Nook Color to receive 'major' firmware update, new magazine title

How to hack the $250 Nook Color into a full Android tablet

Microsoft vs. Android

Nook Color, the low cost Android tablet

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