Barnes & Noble's Nook Color, previously in heated competition with Amazon's Kindle, has unleashed its full potential with the news today that the next firmware update will include Flash, e-mail and an App Store. This is a huge development in the market of Tablet PCs. The iPad could actually be in some trouble with this news.
People recorded this video watching the Home Shopping Network selling the updated Nook via Mashable. The features were made known through this medium and it represents wonderful news for those looking for a competitor to the iPad.
Even after the iPad recently announced just enough improvements in the second iteration of the product to warrant purchasing the new edition, it still didn't seem like the ultimate Tablet most pundits were making it out to be. There was still no flash supported on the device which is a crime and it's still operating a souped up version of iOS, which doesn't exactly compare to the Windows systems many Tablets were running. But they still stood alone at the top of the Tablet market just because, I guess, it's Apple.
But the Nook never really seemed to be in competition with them as it was just marketed as an e-Reader through the book heavy company Barnes & Noble. They aren't and probably never will be known for their technology. They squared off in the niche arena of e-Readers with Amazon, the market leader in the field as of now. But the Nook's next firmware update could change the game in both markets.
Flash and e-mail support as well as a Nook App Store will be included in the next firmware update which will effectively turn the Nook from a souped up Kindle into a viable option in the Tablet PC market. It's basically going to be an iPad for a much smaller price. Barring changes, you're not going to have to pay for ridiculous service charges through AT&T or pay the Apple premium of a couple hundred dollars for the privilege to use their product.
Now obviously all of these services have to actually be functional for the Nook to compete. If their App Store pales in comparison to Apple's, then this probably is just going to be a blip that Steve Jobs will use to promote Apple's superiority. E-mail support isn't anything that groundbreaking as Apple's long had this as a staple in iOS and you still have the ability to surf the Internet and check e-mail on the Kindle, albeit "experimentally."
Barnes & Noble did acknowledge that e-mail was being added in a press release but Flash was strangely left out. Here's the link to the App Store for the Nook which will be supported by the device once this update takes hold.
Screen Grab of HSN's features. They listed the price at $299
Ultimately, people are still going to pay the Apple premium to look cool and have a device they know will be able to meet their needs. Even when paying higher prices, people are still usually pretty happy with their Apple purchases. But the Nook does represent the first true viable contender as its services are starting to rival Apple's and you can get it for a much reduced price of about $299 as opposed to iPads which aren't that cheap refurbished and in a past generation.
So where does this leave the Kindle? Honestly, probably in the same place. If you buy something just for e-books, that's going to be your device. It still has free 3G if you buy the corresponding model and is the product of the leading retail site and book seller on the Internet. The Kindle also recently just began advertising so it wouldn't be surprising if sales actually went up. Barnes & Noble seems to see that they're not going to dethrone the Kindle so they're taking on the Tablet market.
Unfortunately, Apple may represent the one competitor with even more invincibility than Amazon.