An e-reader on steroids
Convergence has been an overused term in the tech world for as long as we can remember, but for the past couple of years it really has been established in earnest. While most of the time we're referring to the convergence of the PC and mobile phone spaces, this shift has dragged many other sectors into its orbit.
Amazon pioneered the technological evolution of book reading with the Kindle e-reader, and since Apple launched the iPad earlier this year there has been considerable speculation that the tablet may supplant the stand-alone e-reader. Rival book-seller Barnes & Noble has decided to render that debate redundant by making a device that's a combination of the two.
As ever with convergent devices, it remains to be seen whether this is the best of both worlds, or the worst. The NOOKcolor has a seven inch backlit colour screen. When we first read it had a colour screen we thought perhaps Qualcomm's Mirasol had finally emerged but no. This one is called VividView (TM) and is backlit. While there are many advantages to having a backlit screen, it's a big drain on battery life and it's interesting that B&N has sidestepped that issue in its press release.
The other big convergent move is the adoption of Android as the OS for the NOOKcolor. The reason for this is to enable a bunch more functionality, especially social features such as the LendMe App, which allows you to borrow and lend books. It will also enable interactive books for kids.
But this isn't a tablet. For a start the NOOKcolor doesn't have mobile connectivity - only Wi-Fi - and Google hasn't allowed the Android Marketplace to reside on it. So any apps you find on the NOOKcolor will have been written especially for it. On the flip-side, it only costs $249, which puts it firmly in the e-reader bracket. So it will probably be positioned as an e-reader on steroids.
"With NOOKcolor, we've combined the functionality and convenience of a 7-inch portable wireless tablet with the reader-centricity of a dedicated eReader, and employed a breakthrough colour screen technology that will wow customers," said William Lynch, CEO of B&N.
"NOOKcolor enables Web browsing over Wi-Fi, music, games and much more, but reading anything and everything in brilliant color is the killer app and squarely the product's focus. At $249, NOOKcolor offers a tremendous value, particularly in comparison to the many other 7-inch tablets coming to market at twice the cost and often requiring expensive data plans."
UPDATE - Just had a look at the NOOKcolor website and it talks about battery life of 8 hours. That's fine for a tablet, but is it enough for an e-reader?