January NOOKcolor update: This is not the Android Market you're looking for

You might have seen reports yesterday of Barnes & Noble's NOOKcolor getting an upgrade next month. The story, which originated with Smartphonemag.com, claims that the Android-based e-reader will be upgraded to Android 2.2 (aka Froyo) and will gain access to the Android Market. Lots of Android blogs were very excited about this news, seeing it as a next step to turning the NOOKcolor into an affordable Android tablet.

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I think we need to slow down a bit. There are two distinct points in the story to look at. First, there's the Android 2.2 upgrade. If true this is great news, no doubt about it. We've seen the improvements so many other devices have gotten in the upgrade from 2.1 to 2.2 and there's no reason to expect anything different with the NOOKcolor. Steve Green at Smartphone Mag says to expect better performance and better battery life, and that makes perfect sense. Updates to Android are always welcome. So yeah, a big fist pump from me, too, on that aspect of the story. Where I urge Android fans to temper their enthusiasm a bit is with the news of the Android Market coming to NOOKcolor. Green refers to "a retooled Android Market" (which he didn't see first hand) and has this to say about it:

"The Android Market app was still under development and was not on the device to see. I was told that Nook users may not have access to the full market."

Now remember back on December 3rd, B&N released the NOOK SDK to developers, inviting them to get started developing apps. Presumably the people who decide to support the NOOK with apps will want some way to distribute them, and obviously that means some kind of app store. I suggest that the 'retooled Android Market' is in fact a NOOK-specific market designed to show off the apps developed via the NOOK SDK. That's not to say that we won't see ports of some favorite Android apps, but I think those will be the exception rather than the rule. Of course, if you really want the full-on Android experience on a NOOKcolor, you can have that today assuming you're comfortable rooting your device, and following these steps from the NookDevs wiki. Just to be clear, Nook Devs is very much an unofficial resource and please read the large red text that says "This is hard, and can screw up your NC. If you are the sort of person who never does anything at the command prompt, skip it." (If you're anything like me, that's the equivalent of 'We double-dog dare ya to try this!') This is one time I'd love to be wrong. I hope Barnes & Noble really is bringing the Android Market to the NOOKcolor, but I suspect we're going to see a dedicated app store that heavily emphasizes custom Nook apps. I don't think Barnes & Noble will risk making things too 'complicated' for their less tech-focused e-book buying audience, nor do I think they want all those "sexy wallpaper" apps that junk-up the Android Market appearing on their device. [Update: Well that was fast. No sooner did I hit the Publish button on this post then I find an article at AndroidGuys that confirms (via a B&N representative) that NOOKColor won't be getting the standard Market. And a 'no comment' on any kind of January update.]

Peter Smith writes about personal technology for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @pasmith.

Thumbnail photo courtesy Geek Tonic

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