Nook Color getting Android 2.2 next month?

Reports on the Web suggest that you'll soon be able to upgrade the Nook Color to Android 2.2 and turn it into a full-fledged Android tablet. But is there any truth to these reports?

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
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David Carnoy
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Speculation ramps up over when the Nook Color will get an Android upgrade. Barnes & Noble

Engadget posted a story today about the Nook Color titled, "Nook Color getting Android 2.2 and Market in January, current hacks could make it blow up." The title is certainly catchy (whenever you write about mobile products blowing up, the traffic tends to go through the roof), but we were a little concerned with some info in the post.

After talking about the potential hazards of hacking the Nook Color to run Android 2.2 and linking to PC World and nookdevs articles, the writer went on to say, "Thankfully, there is a much easier way coming, with Barnes & Noble confirming that Android 2.2 will be officially coming to the Nook Color in January. Yes, Android 2.3 is what's happening, but this is still an exciting upgrade as it will finally also allow access to a traditional Android home screen and even enable the Android Market. In other words, it should work just like an Android tablet, Kindle app and all."

This simply isn't true. For starters, Barnes & Noble has never said that it plans to allow users to access the full Android Market. What it's done is released a SDK (Software Development Kit) to developers and requested they develop apps that are "reading-centric." We're not sure exactly the parameters of that are, but if you look in the Developing for the Nook Color guide, it clearly states near the end, "Barnes & Noble will be posting additional tutorials and samples in our developer program, NOOKdeveloper, to help you get started building successful reading-centric applications for NOOKcolor."

We called Barnes & Noble reps and they reiterated that Barnes & Noble is committed to the Nook Developer program. In other words, you're not getting the full Android Market on a Nook Color unless, of course, you choose to hack it. And that also means Barnes & Noble isn't going to serve up the Kindle app so you can download e-books from Amazon on your Barnes & Noble device (duh, right!).

Secondly, while Barnes & Noble has stated that it plans on updating the Nook Color so it runs a customized version of Android 2.2 or Froyo as it's sometimes called, it hasn't said exactly when this is happening. At launch, company reps, including CEO William Lynch, told us that additional apps would be released "early next year" and that the device would be upgradeable to Android 2.2 "sometime next year." A company rep confirmed that Barnes & Noble is sticking with those statements and that nothing has changed.

So, could that mean Android 2.2 in January? Sure, technically it's "next year," but we somehow doubt it gets done that soon. Also, to be clear, Barnes & Noble typically issues a press release when it "officially" announces something. (In saying that 2.2 would "officially" be released in January Engadget cited a blog post from SmartphoneMag.com).

It's worth noting that one of the key things that Android 2.2 would bring to the device would be Flash support for the Web browser. We've also been encouraging Barnes & Noble to quickly release an e-mail app and some other utilitarian apps, such as a weather app. Whether Barnes & Noble will allow such games as Angry Birds into the Nook Color's app store, we can't tell you, but we do know it runs just fine on the device because we've seen it in action.

Anyway, the long and short of it is, if you buy the Nook Color don't expect it to become a full-fledged Android tablet. But do expect it to become more functional, get some tweaks to its interface, and perhaps offer some performance improvements.