The e-reader tablet market that the original Nook Color opened up last year is about to explode, and dark horse Kobo doesn't intend to linger around the starting gate. The company's Kobo Vox reader, with a form factor and specs that fall roughly in line with Barnes & Noble and Amazon's offerings, is available online at retailers across the U.S. and Canada. The Android Gingerbread based tablet is tied into the Kobo bookstore, and costs $199.99 - almost exactly the same price as the upcoming Kindle Fire.
Like its competitors, the Vox isn't designed to light the world on fire with powerhouse specifications. A 7-inch, 1024 x 600 screen is optimized for book and periodical reading, while a modest 800Mhz processor and 512MB of RAM should cover basic web browsing and non-gaming apps well. Like its full-color competitors, the Vox has Wifi and no 3G connection. 8GB of storage will hold plenty of books, and if you fancy movies, music or extra apps a MicroSD card slot should have you covered. Kobo's customizations to Gingerbread make it ineligible for the Android Market, but the company is claiming "Access to over 15,000 free apps" via its own custom app store.
Kobo is claiming that users will have "unencumbered access to Android 2.3," with an emphasis on "Freedom". Does that mean that third-party apps will be enabled via side-load? Will the Kobo's source code become available any time soon? We've reached out to Kobo for clarification and are currently awaiting a response; we'll be sure to let you know what they say. The Vox is available in black, pink, green and blue, but it looks like their online orders are backed up at the moment, and there's currently a 5-day wait for shipment.