Barnes & Noble's Nook Color just received a major update today that finally delivers apps, email, and web browsing to the 7-inch device. Although originally billed as an e-reader, the Nook is now looking even more like a multipurpose tablet, and with a price tag of just $250 it's a very compelling option for those looking an affordable Android slate.
The 1.2 firmware update includes a customized version of Android OS 2.2 (Froyo) and B&N's own mobile app store: Nook Apps. Unfortunately it won't offer access to the full Android Market, but the company's store already counts 125 apps and games, among them popular favorites like Angry Birds, Pulse reader, Pandora, Uno, Epicurious and more.
Additionally, developers are encouraged to continue submitting apps using the B&N provided tools. The company says that part of its goal with its App Store and SDK is to make sure that apps are tailored for the Nook Color.
Other new features include a social reading app called Nook Friends, which lets you share not only comments but also books, a new navigation slider bar in the periodical reader, presets for AOL Mail, Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo Mail, free calendar and note-taking apps as well as Adobe Flash support.
In terms of hardware the Nook Color is certainly not the most powerful tablet out there: It packs a Texas Instruments ARM Cortex-A8 800MHz processor, 8GB of internal memory plus a MicroSDHC card slot that supports up to 32GB cards, and a 1024 x 600 display that's optimized to minimize glare for reading. The lack of full app functionality through Google's Android Market is also a drawback but at $250 the Nook sounds like a pretty good deal overall.