Barnes & Noble launches the Nook Tablet

Clearly unwilling to allow its book-selling competitor to attack the budget Android tablet market alone, US retailer Barnes & Noble has announced its answer to the Kindle Fire: the Nook Tablet.

The name might not be particularly imaginative, but it's an interesting device nevertheless: using the same form factor as the Nook Color eReader, the Nook Tablet features a 7in IPS touchscreen, behind which you can find a 1GHz ARM-based dual-core processor.

Comparing it to its most direct competitor - the recently announced Kindle Fire from Amazon - the Nook Tablet comes out on top: as well as 1GB of RAM to the Kindle Fire's 512MB, Barnes & Noble's creation features double the storage at 16GB, complete with a microSD slot that enables users to add up to another 32GB to the device.

On pricing, the Nook Tablet doesn't do so well: unlike Amazon's headline-grabbing $199 retail price, Barnes & Noble is pushing its tablet at a heftier $259 - still well at the budget end of the Android tablet ecosystem, but a significant amount higher than Amazon's effort.

While the Nook Tablet is Android-based, there's also a catch: as with the Nook Color before it, the company has customised the software to the extent that it's near-unrecognisable as a device running Google's popular mobile OS.

While that won't put the hackers off - with the original Nook Color having become one of the most popular 'tablets' around once users figured out how to remove the Barnes & Noble customisations and install a stock Android ROM - it's something of which end-users could well be wary.

The success or failure of the Nook Color will come down to the ecosystem: while the Amazon Kindle expects its users to get all their eBooks and other media directly from Amazon's own Kindle Store, the Nook is a little more friendly. That's not to say that Barnes & Noble hasn't included its own eBook store - because it has - but it also supports media from the likes of Netflix and Hulu Plus for 720p video streaming.

Sadly for UK tablet fans, the Nook is unlikely to to reach the UK any time soon - meaning that the Kindle Fire, when it eventually hits our shores, could be the only choice for buyers on a budget.