Recent news regarding the Nook Color‘s new features should go a long way toward illustrating the direction that the mini-tablet is likely to take in the near future. While many have never viewed it as serious eReader competition for the Kindle, this seemed to be the hope that Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) had for the device. It seems they’re coming to their senses a bit and realizing the real potential of their affordably priced tablet.
To sum the situation up a bit, a recent offering on the Home Shopping Network let slip certain information about upcoming features for the Nook. Most notably, it will be the first tablet on the market to include Flash support. In addition to this, there will finally be support for email, as well as an app store to expand the capabilities of the device. It seems that a viewer managed to capture the segment and post it on YouTube, which then prompted Barnes & Noble to issue a press release confirming the email, though not yet the Flash.
This definitely seems like a divergence from the previously staunch position that the Nook Color must be seen as a reading device first and foremost. It makes a lot of sense. Users seem largely to value the newest Nook incarnation for either its tablet capabilities or its color screen rather than any percieved inherently superior reading performance. Really, while I’m not a fan of it as an eReader, this should make Barnes & Noble into a major player in the tablet competition.
The press release also emphasizes the importance of the Nook platform’s magazine and children’s book offerings. Since these are the areas where the color screen really shines, given the shortcomings of a monochrome display for such applications, it definitely makes sense to see the focus turn this way. I think there’s a lot of future in the marketing of children’s books in particular, things along the lines of NOOK Kids, for the less expensive and versatile tablets on the market today even if they fall short in other areas. Great for actually getting in the hands of kids.
The effect of these upcoming changes on the Kindle in the end seems destined to be fairly negligible. There’s a good chance that this will end the direct Kindle vs Nook Color comparisons for many, since it indicates an emphasis on non-book aspects of reading as well as non-reading applications. That’s something. Really, though, it feels like this is more an indication of how successful the Kindle has been than anything else. The rush to a color eReader hasn’t succeeded because it meant a number of compromises that Amazon didn’t make, so they’re moving into a slightly different field. It could also be that this is meant as a means to get a jump on Amazon in light of the rumors that have been going around about a potential Kindle-related line of tablet PCs.
The software update is supposed to drop in April, by all accounts, so be on the lookout for it. I believe that this will breathe new life into the Nook Color for existing users as well as bring in a large new audience.