∞ Nook Tablet competes with Kindle Fire, not iPad

Barnes & Noble officially took the wraps off its Nook Tablet on Monday. The new 7-inch color device goes on sale today for delivery in mid-November, for $249. It joins three other Nook-branded devices: the Nook Color, now priced at $199, and the Nook Simple Touch, a basic e-ink reader for $99.

The Nook Tablet runs a customized version of Google’s Android 2.3 operating system. It looks similar to the Nook Color, featuring a 1024 x 600 pixel touch-sensitive display, weighing less. It also features some amenities missing from Amazon’s less-expensive Kindle Fire – a faster processor, more storage capacity, and a microSD expansion card slot. Barnes & Noble is also lauding the Nook Tablet’s “VividView” display, which it says is less-prone to distracting reflective glare than other tablets because of a difference in manufacturing method.

Barnes & Noble doesn’t have the same depth and breadth of integrated services for the Nook Color as Amazon does with its Kindle Fire. But Barnes & Noble has included a number of third-party entertainment apps to make the Nook Tablet a well-rounded entertainment device: Netflix, Hulu Plus and Pandora are all supported, for example. Web surfing software, and e-mail client and “thousands of high-quality apps” are also available. While it’s Android-based, Nook Tablet customers go through Barnes & Noble’s own app store to download apps customized to work on the device.

Barnes & Noble estimates the Nook Tablet can operate for 11.5 hours at a stretch without needing a recharge. The company counts more than 250 newspapers and full-color magazines available for the device, as well as “Nook Comics,” published from companies including Marvel, Archie, IDW and Dynamite. The Nook Tablet can also read PDF files and e-books from the Nook Store.

For users uninterested in a full-featured tablet, the Nook Simple Touch may offer a compelling alternative to Amazon’s lower-priced tablet – for $99, Barnes & Noble notes that the Nook Simple Touch works “with no annoying ads.” The device sports a new software update that improves performance; existing Nook Simple Touch users can download the software from the Nook Web site, or wait for an Over the Air (OTA) update coming soon.