B&N “Innovates” by Becoming Yet Another Tablet Company

News broke today that Barnes and Noble is opening up the NOOK hardware to Google, adding Google Play to their NOOK HD and HD+ devices. Is this a canny move to capitalize on tablet demand, or a desperate grab for any port in a storm? Does this actually matter to the average buyer? As our own Mike Anderson asked, “Is abandoning their own ecosystem a desperate move?”

I think this is great news for the ten bloggers who really love the NOOK HD hardware. Except for a few Android users who can re-download their apps across their phone and NOOK, the average person probably won’t notice the difference. But this is a shift for B&N since the word “Android” rarely appears on the product pages and almost never appears in their ads. As a result, it is hard to say that their customer base was clamoring for something they may not have known they could have. Yes, a minority saw NOOKs as a neat way to make an Android tablet, but it’s not like it is hard to just buy an Android tablet … no need to deal with the B&N software as well.

That leads to the biggest problem the NOOK hardware has in my opinion: price. It’s $229 for a 16GB NOOK HD. Once someone gets over the mental hurdle of spending $229 on a tablet, I suspect it isn’t too hard to spend the extra $100 and get an iPad mini. (And with refurbs now below the $300 mark, it is even less of a leap.) Let’s look how the pricing breaks down.

Someone who is price sensitive is going to turn to a Fire, or a Nexus 7, or a lower end NOOK tablet. Someone who isn’t on a tight budget choices ranging from the iPad Mini to the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0. Someone who really wants a true” Android tablet has a slew of affordable options, from Samsung Galaxy Tabs and Notes to the Nexus line. And someone who is on a tight budget but wants an Android tablet with some quality is probably not snapping up a tablet that’s more expensive than Google’s own Nexus 7, or they’re buying last year’s Kindle Fire or NOOK Tablet.

In other words … there’s just not a lot of room for B&N to be yet another tablet maker, and it gets worse. The things that make them pop (family profiles, special kid-modes, sharing options) have absolutely nothing to do with Google Play, so someone buying a NOOK for these reasons doesn’t even care about Play.

In short, this is a desperate attempt to please everyone, and — as is so often the case when you try to do that — it pleases no one. That, in turn, will translate into low sales or, potentially, no sales.  This inability to link what makes the product interesting to what the marketing department apparently thinks is interesting is going to kill what was once seen as a very interesting product. At this point, it almost feels like B&N wants to be an also-ran!


Categories: Gear Bits


10 replies

  1. Apple had shown the value of a broad ecosystem in terms of profits as well as loyalty … As have Amazon and Google. And Samsung has clogged up their S4 with about 8GB of crapware to push their own replacements of standard Google apps. In other words, ecosystems matter. So I really do believe that this is telling us the Nook ecosystem outside of books is an utter failure, to the point they are handing things over to Google.


    • The difference is all those other ecosystems either added value or had purpose on multiple devices. NOOK apps were exactly the same as regular android apps, just in their own silo. Basically useless if you switched devices.
      B&N didn’t offer anything special before, and now they are even less special.
      It just mystifies me why they are a bookstore that goes out of their way to barely promote all their book options.

      • Very good point, and unlike Amazon, they never made the leap to allow their appstore on standard Android devices. I prefer Amazon and therefore give them my money rather than Google … so with the Amazon Appstore it is perfect.

        Is there ANY reason to buy into the B&N ebook system – unless you just love trying things at stores?

        • I wish I could give you one…but I really can’t.

          The best you can say is that they’re not amazon. And that’s a poor recommendation.
          Sent from my iPad

  2. This could have made a difference to me years ago – but now I think it’s too late. The draw of having a great Google Play tablet with a good ebook ecosystem is smart.

    At this point, I think B&N has little to lose from this. This may see a few more Nooks.

    • Back in the days of the Nook Color, opening up the tablet would have been great news. Since the Android tablets of that time were overpriced, and there was a group who loved to convert Nook Colors into “open” tablets, it would have been a good fit. That ship has sailed. Turning on the Play Store on a Nook HD today gets you a tablet that costs in the same realm as others, but has zero cameras and no GPS and no cellular data. Their latest attempt to get some attention seems like another miss. But, I was never their target demo anyway.

  3. B&N has put the Nook HD and HD+ on sale through Mother’s Day. The HD starts at $149 and the HD+ starts at $179.

    • I have been out all morning and just saw B&N’s email. Smart. If those remain the prices for a while that’s an opportunity for them.

    • I picked up an HD+ yesterday because of A. this sale and B. the app store access having been added. It’s a great tablet for that money and will replace my aging nook color (running cm10.1) nicely. I may not even need to hack it with all my apps available to me now.