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Barnes and Noble attempts a Leapfrog

On November 19th, Barnes and Noble is slated to release an answer to a question that Amazon and other haven't asked yet. The NOOKcolor is their new attempt to breach the e-reader market with something new, a tablet computer running Google's Android operating system. The system will run for $249 and will be marketed beside the original Barnes and Noble NOOK line.

When the first NOOK was announced a year ago, it differentiated itself from its competition with a two-screen design, complete with the usual eInk display and a navigation screen, powered by Google's Android operating system. That model will be sticking around a little while longer, as a lower cost option, starting at $149 with a Wifi-only option, beside a $199 3G+Wifi model. The original NOOK is also slated to gain additions in November, with a firmware update that the company calls "major" with updates to page-turn speeds and many other extras to bring it inline with the Kindle line, as it stands today.

The NOOKcolor, on the other hand, is a tablet computer and e-reader. Announced today, Barnes and Noble believes that they have created a new product category with this Wifi-only tablet, since Amazon has yet to come out with a version of the Kindle with touch, let alone a color screen. As with the Kindle, original NOOK, and other e-readers to date, the NOOKcolor will be expected to fulfill reading, something that will have to be tested when functional units are available in store. However, while the other mentioned e-readers measure their battery life in weeks or more, the NOOKcolor will only be able to measure it in hours (eight to be exact). While this battery rating is expected of computers, it has not be the case with e-readers to date, which may cause some apprehension among the target e-reader audience.

Meanwhile, the NOOKcolor might be a good option for those looking for a low cost tablet. If Barnes and Noble believes that they are not going up against other Android tablets and the iPad, they are sorely mistaken. As such, the price they have chosen is aggressive enough that this detail might not matter in the long term for them. While they have made it abundantly clear that they are not marketing the NOOKcolor as an Android Tablet, the technology community will think nothing different. Barnes and Noble is even differentiating itself from other tablets by not buying into Android's App Market, but instead creating its own store and developer network with NOOKdeveloper.

At this point, the NOOK has been able to give Barnes and Noble a foothold into the e-reader market, in particular because the NOOK, aside from the Amazon Kindle, is one of the more noteworthy readers in the mind of the general consumer. The NOOKcolor will only work to solidify that foothold, but the question remains will it be enough to pull Barnes and Noble out of the economic troubles it has been sinking into of late. Only time will tell how much the NOOK and NOOKcolor mean to Barnes and Noble's endgame.