updated 08:40 pm EDT, Fri April 16, 2010
Barnes and Noble Nook to drop 3G for $199
A surprise rumor late Friday has pointed to Barnes & Noble planning a rapid expansion of its Nook readers that could start in the next few weeks. To start, a stripped-back Nook is said in the works and would drop 3G, using only Wi-Fi. The reader would cost just $199 and would be ready before the end of spring, the Gizmodo insider said.
Both this and the regular Nook will supposedly get an interim firmware update, 1.4, that will add a full web browser. How this would work is a mystery as the reader's short touchscreen makes it impractical to use just the more responsive display, but the upgrade could arrive as soon as next week.
In the long term, a second Nook codenamed Project Encore would be ready by the end of the year. Little is known of what it would involve.
The readers, if real, would have the bookseller greatly intensifying its design efforts in the wake of the iPad. Apart from the Kindle possibly reaching Target in two weeks, Apple's entrance is the only known immediate problem for the Nook creator and poses a threat primarily through flexibility. The iPad's web browsing is a central feature where the Kindle's is an experimental, incomplete component. Barnes & Noble's $259 price for the Nook is distant from Apple's but leaves it with no clear advantage over rivals, unlike the expensive but truly Internet- and video-capable iPad.
Steps have already been taken to shore up Nook sales by putting it on sale at Best Buy where it was previously confined to Barnes & Noble's own retail chain.