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Even though Barnes & Noble hasn’t been pushing the Nook Color as an iPad competitor, its low price and slick hardware seem to have made it one.

Barnes & Noble shipped close to 3 million units of the $250 Nook Color since it launched in November, Digitimes reports, based on estimates from suppliers of the device’s components. Its success led the suppliers to calculate that the Nook Color currently accounts for over 50 percent of the iPad-competitor market (which includes all other tablets).

While far from official sales figures (shipment numbers only tell us how many devices are sent to retailers, not how many are sold), the estimates are still a decent indicator of how consumers are responding to the Nook Color. And not surprisingly, it seems buyers want cheap tablets. (B&N previously said that the device was its best-selling product for this past holiday season.)

Barnes & Noble made several bold decisions with the device, including pricing it well below other tablets and bringing it more in line with the Kindle and other e-readers; offering a portable 7-inch size with a high-quality screen; and having it run a locked-down version of Android, which left the door open to expand the Nook Color’s capabilities with apps and other tablet-like features (which are now headed to the device in an April update).

It’s also not too surprising to hear that the Nook Color may be dominating the small field of iPad-competitors, most of which are two to three times its cost. Hackers have also taken a liking to the device because it’s cheap and easy to turn into a full-blown Android tablet.

According to the suppliers, B&N shipped one million Nook Color units in the fourth quarter of 2010 and shipped 600,000 to 700,000 units a month for January and February.

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