Dawn of the Nookslate?
The Barnes & Noble Nook recently gained a chunk of notoriety due to the ease with which it can be hacked into functioning as a tablet. This "$200 tablet" has proved popular among modders and bargain hunters looking for a stop-gap slate, until Samsung or Acer puts out something good. At best, B&N was expected to turn a blind eye to this. At worst, they'd release a firmware update temporarily bricking hacked nooks.
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Instead, they've taken the modders as market research. The next update to the Nook Color will launch with a variety of tablet features. There will be no need for any 'risky' hacking. You'll be able to download full apps through the Nook's new App Store. As soon as April, you could be playing Angry Birds on your Nook. Email and Flash support will also come to the e-reader.
At this point, with a price edging closer to $300, the Nook no longer really qualifies as anything but a full-featured tablet. Sure, the App access will be limited- but every tablet has limitations on what apps you can access. The Nook will soon be a perfectly viable low-end tablet, with a proven manufacturer and established base of customers.
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Barnes & Noble is poised to exploit a very sorely underserved market here. There are a tremendous number of inexpensive Android tablets available. Almost none of them are pleasant to use or of solid build quality. I'm not sure if an upscale bookstore chain wants to be the slumlord of 7" tablets, but I'm betting they'll go where the money is. Every Nook they sell is one more tablet without the Kindle app.