updated 09:50 am EDT, Fri April 23, 2010
Nook gets new software to counter iPad
Barnes & Noble kept up a string of new features today with a Nook 1.3 update. The new firmware adds support for apps to the platform and, in its early form, includes both chess and Sudoku games that take advantage of the E Ink display to show the main game while using the color touchscreen for control. Since the Nook is based on Android, utilities and other apps are expected in the future.
A beta web browser is also built-in and uses the main display to show the page while the color touchscreen is used to navigate and for a virtual keyboard. It also expands the use of Wi-Fi and lets users sign in at coffee shops and other public areas that need a web-based login to work.
Wi-Fi itself has been changed and now includes a new Read in Store feature that serves as an incentive to visit physical bookstores. Those who connect their Nook to a Barnes & Noble store's hotspot can read any e-book for free for up to an hour; newspapers and magazines will also be available later for up to 20 minutes per day.
Other tweaks include a new home screen to take advantage of the new apps as well as faster page turns, faster book resumes, and better navigation on the touchscreen. The 1.3 update is already available as a manual download and should automatically push out to all Nooks over the next week when they connect to Wi-Fi.
The patch comes as part of an aggressive campaign to bring the Nook back into the spotlight, including sales at Best Buy and its first real ad campaign. Barnes & Noble has never divulged its sales numbers, but its sales are likely to be threatened by those of the iPad as the support for apps and the web have given it considerably more features, albeit at a higher price. Amazon already has a Kindle app platform, but it too was a reaction to the perceived iPad effect.
Updating the Nook indirectly corroborates rumors of a Nook sequel and a stripped down model coming out in the near future, as the same leak also predicted an update this week.