Is the Barnes & Noble Nook Color Android-based dedicated color e-reading tablet the best selling tablet in North America outside of Apple’s iPad? This seems to be the case according to a report by DigiTimes, which says that the versatile and easily rooted and hackable tablet has managed to garner “over 50% of the iPad-like market in the North America market.” Sales of the tablet “topped one million units in the North America in the fourth quarter of 2010 and reached 600,000-700,000 units a month during the January-February period of 2011.”
While the Nook Color employs a touchscreen-based user interface on top of the Android 2.1 user interface, the device is heavily customized and skinned so that there is little traces of the native Google operating system. Users are greeted to a curated experience that showcases and highlights the e-reading experience, though Barnes & Noble is promising that a future software update will bring Android 2.2, support for Adobe Flash, and select reading-centric apps to the tablet. However, in the interim, users have found ways to root the tablet, enable Android Market to load third-party apps, and even hack on Android 3.0 Honeycomb, which is tablet-optimized.
The success of the Nook Color may be due to a number of reasons, but it’s low starting price of $250 does help set the tablet apart in a crowded market. While the Galaxy Tab costs $600 (WiFi + 3G from carriers) unsubsidized and the Verizon edition of the Motorola Xoom costs $800 with the promise of 4G LTE access, the Nook Color eschews costly mobile broadband connectivity for a simpler WiFi model. That means you’ll mostly be tethered to a WiFi hotspot if you want to access the Internet, download more books from the Barnes & Noble e-books bookstore, or check your email, but you won’t have to pay for the 3G or 4G radio and won’t have to worry about expensive monthly data plans. Other factors include a simple and easy to use user interface, strong design, and a screen that is better at outdoors readability.