We're still waiting for Barnes & Noble to expand the Nook Color app offerings and open a Nook app store for the device. But in the meantime the company has released a small but somewhat significant firmware upgrade that fixes some bugs and adds a few new features highlighted by the ability to pinch-and-zoom in the Web browser.
On its Nook Web site, Barnes & Noble has the following message:
Barnes & Noble is providing a minor update to NOOKcolor firmware that will improve NOOKcolor's Wi-Fi connectivity; improve Home and Shop performance; add the ability to pinch and zoom in browser; enhance the reading experience for magazines and children's books; add a text banner to easily identify NOOK kids Read To Me books; and other general bug fixes and performance improvements. The software update is available immediately via a manual download and will also be delivered via an automatic download for devices connected to Wi-Fi, over the next few days.
The update had yet to automatically download to our Nook Color review unit as of this morning so we went ahead and did the manual install and it went off without a hitch. While the Nook Color doesn't feel as zippy as the iPad, the pinch-and-zoom feature really does improve the browsing experience (pages simply don't zoom quite as smoothly as they do on an iPad, but the feature works relatively well). We thought pinch-and-zoom browsing should have been included at launch, but we're glad it's been added now.
It should be noted that if you happened to have rooted your Nook Color, the update will wipe out your custom firmware. For those who don't know, "rooting" or hacking your Nook is not supported by Barnes & Noble but it essentially turns your Nook Color into a full-fledged Android tablet and allows you to access the Android Marketplace and download apps (the custom firmware is supposed to be fairly stable though not perfect).
Later this year, Barnes & Noble has said that it will update the Nook's operating system to Android 2.2 (Froyo). Rumor had it that update might come early this year, but its arrival remains very much up in the air. That said, we do expect Barnes & Noble to add a Nook app store soon--hopefully with the next firmware upgrade.
If your device's firmware has already been upgraded to the 1.1 firmware, let us know your thoughts or any other improvements you think Barnes & Noble should make to the Nook Color.