NOOKcolor: Android Tablet In Hiding?

I think the NOOKcolor is one of the more interesting devices now available. The NOOKcolor is the second generation of Barnes & Noble’s eBook reader that has a color touchscreen, a new physical design, supports third party applications, and runs Android 2.1. It in fact has all the makings of an Android tablet, but the eReader functionality is what is front and center and the Android home screens and app menu are not accessible.

The current version of the NOOKcolor has the standard Android 2.1 web browser, which provides access to web apps like Gmail and Facebook. Pandora is included, along with a few games, and B&N plans to provide an app store in the first quarter of 2011, which provides the opportunity for other Android apps to run on the device.

Because B&N is a book company, they are not interested in making the NOOKcolor a full tablet to compete with the iPad, but I like the idea that they are taking bigger advantage of the Android operating system and the touchscreen. For example, the NOOKcolor makes reading more social by allowing you to share quotes from books via e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter, which I think is a logical extension to a Internet-connected eReader. I expect that with the touchscreen it is much easier to highlight text than with the first generation nook.

At $249 the NOOKcolor is more expensive than the Kindle and the first generation nook, which B&N continues to sell, but that price is cheap if you consider the NOOKcolor a tablet. It’s not surprising, then, that developers are hard at work on gaining root access to the NOOKcolor so that it can be used like a tablet.

Right now a complex method is available to gain root access, enabling people to run LauncherPro and Angry Birds, and developers are working on an easier method to rooting the NOOKcolor so that more users can take advantage of the capabilities of the device.

I don’t know what B&N’s response will be to rooting the NOOKcolor, but I can’t imagine they are surprised that it is happening, and if people buy the device and books, I can’t see why they would care. Selling a device that is hackable and appeals to Android enthusiasts is a nice differentiator from Amazon.