Barnes & Noble Sells Its Soul, Brings Google Play To The Nook


Barnes & Noble has given up the ghost at long last, abandoning its Amazon-style, Lone Ranger strategy by finally welcoming Google Play and the thousands of apps it brings to its line of Nook tablets.

“We’re offering customers even more great entertainment on our award-winning tablets,” said Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch. “Now, with access to more than 700,000 apps and the best reading experience available, the NOOK HD and NOOK HD+ are must have products for entertainment lovers.”

Up until now, Barnes & Noble’s stubbornness over its closed eco-system has been one of the biggest complaints among its users. While there’s no doubting that the NOOK HD and HD+ are extremely nice devices that pack some great hardware, its capabilities can only go so far without access to a wide-range of apps. Previously, Barnes & Noble has stuck to its guns, saying that by operating a walled-garden eco-system, it can maintain a high degree of quality control that ensures developers create apps tailored specifically for the Nook’s unique form-factor.

While that approach definitely brings some advantages, the big problem was that Barnes & Noble’s devices simply didn’t hold much appeal for developers, with only around 10,000 apps ever being developed for the platform. Compared with more popular devices like Android tablets, the iPad and even Amazon’s Kindle (which has something like 75,000 apps), this simply isn’t good enough – especially when some of the most popular apps of all time, like Temple Run, are conspicuously missing.

Now at least, its looks as if Barnes & Noble has finally come to its senses, highlighting that its customers will now be able to enjoy the more than 700,000 apps currently available on Google Play.

Now for the bad news…

Unfortunately, getting access to all of those apps doesn’t come for free. Google’s gangsterism (er, rules) specify that for Nook owners to be able to download the Google Play app, they’ll also need to agree to install the full gamut of Google’s other apps – including Gmail, Google Maps, Google Search, Google Chrome, YouTube and others (many of which will be set as defaults, like Chrome for instance). What’s more, customers don’t appear to have a whole lot of choice either. Barnes & Noble says that all new Nook devices will come with Google’s bloatware pre-installed, while existing devices are to receive an automatic update containing the apps that will take place without any user request or action.

While most people probably won’t mind this intrusion, it’s likely that quite a few customers chose to buy a Nook specifically to avoid these kinds of forced installs that plague regular Android devices. How they will feel about this bloatware being added to their devices remains to be seen, but my guess is that more than a few Nook owners won’t be too pleased about it.

Nevertheless, this is all part of Barnes & Noble’s change of strategy to make its tablets more profitable. Clearly it thinks its devices will have a wider appeal if there are more apps to download, and if that means making certain sacrifices, then so be it.