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B&N May Have Added Google Play to the Nook HD, But Nothing Really Changed

ht_nook_hd_ll_120925_wg[1]Did you catch the news earlier today? B&N surprised the blogosphere with the news that the Nook HD and Nook HD+ could now be updated with Google Play. These media devices now had access to over 700,000 apps as well as ebooks, movies, music, and more.

At first glance this is great news, and it's being hailed as a sign that B&N was knocking down the wall on the B&N Android garden, that B&N was aiming for tablet domination, and that B&N was turning the Nook hardware into Android tablets with some impressive features.

But as great as this might sound for B&N, it's all smoke and mirrors. There is a subtext to today's news that I don't think anyone has reported just yet and it changes everything.

In spite of what you might think, B&N hasn't changed any of their policies.

I learned today that B&N still acts like the Nook platform is their own walled garden. That is what B&N believed in 2011 (it's why I returned my Nook Tablet) and it is still what they believe today.

My discovery happened almost by accident. A few hours ago a reader asked me to confirm that I could sideload apps on my HD+. He wanted to make sure that the Nook HD+ was truly an open device and the equal of other Android tablets on the market.

It's not. Much to my surprise, B&N still has the sideloading of apps blocked.

As a test case, I tried to download an app from the OverDrive website. When I tried to install the app, I got the same "installation blocked" message that I have gotten before. I then tried to install apps from the 1Mobile app store, but was forcibly redirected to Google Play. If there was no corresponding app then all I got was a Google Play error message.

B&N has always blocked the sideloading of apps, and that installation option is still blocked now. Furthermore, I checked with B&N and they have no plans to remove the block.

In spite of the fact that the Nook HD gained access to Google Play today, B&N is still restricting where you can get content. Nook HD owners are only allowed to buy content from the sources that B&N decides to let them access, whether it is the Nook Store, the Nook App Store, or Google Play. That means that all that B&N did today was to open up another gate in their walled garden; they most certainly did not tear down the walls.

Needless to say, this is not good news for the Nook platform.

The same folks who have mismanaged the Nook platform over the past couple years are still in charge at B&N, and all external signs say that B&N is still following the same policies that got them into this mess.

Don't get me wrong, I think the Nook platform can be saved. But the first step is to make fundamental changes in how B&N operates. Barnes & Noble needs to stop making the same mistakes and repeating the same errors that cost them market share and resulted in a huge stack of unsold gadgets.

And no, adding Google Play does not represent a fundamental shift in policy.

Okay, having a new source of content is going to make the Nook platform more appealing to users, yes, but that will only last for a short period of time. At some point in the not too distant future the Nook HD will have as much market appeal as it did yesterday. The folks in charge of B&N will see to it, I bet.

I cannot see that B&N has made any fundamental changes just yet, and until they do I will not hold out any hope for the Nook.

About Nate Hoffelder (11132 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: "I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

157 Comments on B&N May Have Added Google Play to the Nook HD, But Nothing Really Changed

  1. I am confused. They are restricting what apps or media you can buy within the Google Store. I would think to be Google Play certified you have to allow everything to be bought.

  2. Jimmy Suggs // 3 May, 2013 at 9:29 pm //

    I can honestly say that access to Google Play eliminates 99.9% of my need to sideload.

    I don’t particularly think that access to google play will save the Nook, but I also don’t think lack of the ability to sideload will deter people seeking a good, actually viable Android tablet.

    Though it WILL deter people seeking to install pirated apps, since I think that’s what a lot of people use sideloading for. Not everyone, of course. But it’s rather rampant.

  3. If they are restricting just sideloading, that wouldn´t stop me from buying.

  4. The addition of Google Play gets me the apps I need/want. Would it be nice if they allowed sideloading? Yes, but for me personally I can’t remember the last time I had to sideload an app. Technically you can sideload apps via ADB, but it’s more fooling around then I usually want to do.

    Maybe they’re trying to keep Amazon’s app store off of their devices? Because while you could sideload the Amazon store via ADB you can’t download and install any apps from it that way. (I really don’t know what their thoughts are)

  5. You’re really ridiculous with your hate on Barnes and Noble. Isn’t this one of the things you’ve complained about forever? How is this any different than any other tablet now that they are bringing on Google Play? They are also improving the web browser to Chrome and opening up all that Google has to offer with maps, mail , music, movies, YouTube…where’s the walled garden now? They retain their own store and add more options. So you can’t sideload pirated apps. Who cares when you have access to every other thing out there.

    And, they have the best screen available for reading. The high def anti-glare is brilliant.

    It’s a shame more people don’t know how nice a machine this thing is. But you go ahead and keep hating on them.

  6. “How is this any different than any other tablet now that they are bringing on Google Play?”

    Seriously, how can you ask that? I explained how the Nook HD is different from other Android tablets. Maybe you should have read the post before posting this nonsensical comment.

  7. It sounds like they might be getting a (small?) cut of Nook Play revenue from Google.

  8. Logan Kennelly // 4 May, 2013 at 12:00 am //

    Yeesh, so many words for such a misleading conclusion…

    Since day one, the Nook HD and HD+ have allowed sideloading in the traditional sense: via a cable hooked up to your computer. This is intentional and is fully documented by B&N.

    I think they disabled the UI for installing applications from downloads, but I bet someone out there has released an application to set this option.

    You’ll probably then complain that sideloaded applications are second tier and you have to hit a button to see them, but B&N also allow you to install your own launcher, so…

  9. Jimmy Suggs // 4 May, 2013 at 1:52 am //

    The difference between the Nook and many other android tablets is that the nook is a far better made device that delivers more bang for the buck.

    The ONE shortcoming is that you cannot sideload apps, but as far as I can tell, the only reason people needed to sideload apps- was because there was no access to google play. Now that that’s been rectified, I don’t really know why anyone would need to sideload, unless they’re an app developer and they want to test their apps or something. Or if they’re seeking to install pirated apps from one of the many, many, many sites that widely distribute them to people who don’t like to pay app developers for their hard work.

    The fact is that 99% of the people are probably more than satisfied with not being able to sideload, now that they have google play access. All those other app stores (including Amazon) are really just places people go when they have no google play access. Now that they do on the Nook- they’re likely to be quite satisfied. It’s not a perfect product and it’s not for everyone, but B&N just leveled the playing field drastically and that’s not something their detractors are going to take kindly to.

  10. “the Nook HD and HD+ have allowed sideloading in the traditional sense”

    You think using ADB is a traditional method for installing apps? That is a new one for me.

  11. I read your article. And I own multiple tablets and gadgets both Apple and Android I can say from experience that now that the HD has Google Play it is comparable to any other android tablet. It has a shell that makes it look different from another tablet, but that does not cripple the functionality now that Play is available. It even downloaded all my Play apps once the software was updated, just like any other tablet would.

    Now actually, I have the best of both worlds. I have an exceptionally good reader and I have any other apps I want. I can now read my kindle purchases on this reader, play netflix, YouTube and do anything else I want to do. Even the widgets work seamlessly.

    If you had one instead of just read about it maybe you would see the thing works just like any other tablet on the market right now.

    There are two things I don’t understand. Why you hate Barnes and Noble and why I read your blog at all.

  12. “If you had one instead of just read about it maybe you would see the thing works just like any other tablet on the market right now.”

    You must have missed the point where I said that I tried to download an app on to my Nook HD+. It didn’t work.

    And the issue of whether the Nook HD works like other Android tablets was not the point of this post. My point is that B&N has not changed their policies. The folks who ran the business into the ground are still in charge and still operating the same way.

  13. flyingtoastr // 4 May, 2013 at 9:15 am //

    ADB was the original way to sideload apps for Android in general – the APK sideload install system is far newer by comparison.

  14. Eric Welch // 4 May, 2013 at 9:53 am //

    I’m curious as to what app you had to have that was not available through the Google Play store that you just had to have and could only sideload. I have several Kindle devices as well as a Nook HD+, Nook tablet, and Nexus 7. The two Nook devices I rooted with N2A cards making them very nice tablets. This access to Google Play, IMHO, makes them just as good or better than many other pure Android tablets. I don’t think I’ve ever needed to sideload an app so I’m curious which one you found so important.

  15. You’re just not making any sense to me. I’ve just sat here using the thing for the last two hours and it’s amazing. I have the best of both worlds now. I no longer need the sd card I was running to get Play. I have everything I’d want in both a reader and a tablet.

    So how is it that B& N is not trying to better themselves? They’ve opened up the reader and made it a full on tablet with one software upgrade. Are you pissed because you can’t sideload some obscure app? iPhones are known to be a walled garden too. That’s why people jailbreak. What is it you want?

  16. There are a number of emulators that aren’t available through Google Play. Oddly enough, other ones are available.

  17. Logan Kennelly // 4 May, 2013 at 11:25 am //

    Sideloading is generally understood to be the process of connecting your device to your computer to copy things to your device. It sounds exactly like what the Nook supports. (Sure, we have Box and Dropbox and Google Drive these days, but that wasn’t/isn’t always true.)

    Feel free to install Amazon or GetJar if you want. I’m pretty sure it won’t stop you.

    As far as I can tell, enabling on-device installation requires root (which is a further hurdle). You can do it (there are plenty of places that document how), but most people probably won’t bother and will see little utility in doing so.

  18. “Feel free to install Amazon or GetJar if you want. I’m pretty sure it won’t stop you.”

    Tried it. Didn’t work. There is a version of the 1Mobile app store in Google Play and I was able to install it, but I could not install any of the apps from that app store. B&N blocked me.

    “As far as I can tell, enabling on-device installation requires root”

    Nope. For most Android devices all you have to do is uncheck a box in the settings menu.

  19. That is something I had not heard before. I’ve had Android devices since 2009 and I have never hear ADB being described as the mainstream way to install apps (after Android Market, of course). And given how the ADB method is technically complicated I don’t see how it could be a widely used method for installing Android apps.

  20. burger flipper // 4 May, 2013 at 12:02 pm //

    I haven’t side loaded an app since my Pandigital Novel gave up the ghost. And the only reason I side loaded then was because I couldn’t access google’s store.

    I have no idea why this would be a practical issue.

    I wouldn’t bet on the Nook to stick around, but as I mentioned in your last post, that 150 dollar deal last week in now an absolute steal.

  21. burger flipper // 4 May, 2013 at 12:07 pm //

    On quick reflection I guess I can think of 2 practical draw backs. People who like to buy “humble bundles” and those who like the free (cr)app a day from Amazon are still on the outside looking in.

  22. I’ll reply to myself. There are bigger problems with the 2.1 update than GooglePlay, the biggest being, as far as I can tell, in order to get access to your books, you must load the Nook Android app which would be OK except that when I try to load it, I get the message already installed but I can’t seem to access it. In order to get Aldiko sync to work correctly you have to root it or load the earlier version and 2.1 won’t let you do that. 2.1 is clunky and not ready for prime time if you ask me, but with much tweaking and some updates, I suppose it will be competition to other Android tablets or Kindle tables. For now, though, I agree with Nate, it has a long way to go, just not for the reasons he mentions.

  23. Logan Kennelly // 4 May, 2013 at 12:17 pm //

    “Tried it. Didn’t work.”

    Interesting. I’ve never tried one of the alternate stores, but I’m a little surprised that they would use the built-in application manager to install. I’ll have to give it a try.

    “Nope. For most Android devices all you have to do is uncheck a box in the settings menu.”

    I mean in this specific case where it simply isn’t in the UI. AT&T used to release most of their phones with the UI disabled, and I couldn’t find any non-root methods of enabling third-party applications.

  24. I think I need to elaborate.

    Any attempt to install an app from 1Mobile was redirected to Google Play. If there was no corresponding app then all I got was a Google Play error message.

    That type of behavior is not something I have seen before on other Android devices.

  25. Logan Kennelly // 4 May, 2013 at 12:25 pm //

    It sounds like there was a problem with your update. I didn’t have to install anything extra to read books: that is a standard feature that continues to be included. I pull up books through the Library interface as before, and books can be read by merely selecting them.

    It is a little unfair to blame B&N for Aldiko’s decision to block the Aldiko Sync application. It isn’t specific to the Nook platform, and Aldiko decided to upset their customers through spite or ignorance.

    I wouldn’t really describe the update as clunky. It mostly looks and operates as it did before, but it now includes the Google suite of applications. I happen to enjoy the book-first interface as that’s why I bought the Nook. Running an alternate launcher (like Apex) it looks and performs like most Android tablets (except with differently styled buttons).

    The only part I’ve found “clunky” would be the multitask key which takes about a second to come up. This isn’t new, however.

  26. You don’t need to load the nook app because it’s part of the original interface. The same message pops up if you download netflix. Do you want the one that is already installed with the HD or the one that comes from Play?

    I don’t think the interface is clunky at all. It’s primary reason for existence is as a reader and Play is the icing on the cake. Now, I can even download an ePub from Dropbox and tell it where to store it on the nook and read it from the Reader app. It can even be stored in the folder where other purchases go so it lands on that shelf too. You could never do that before. So you don’t need to sideload books. You could always download from the web to the nook, but now the folder structure is more visible. It’s a nice touch.

    Listen, I don’t have any vested interest in anybody liking nook or using one, but it’s a really great reader. I’ve never seen a screen as good as this one to read by. The resolution coupled with the non glare glass makes it easy to read without seeing yourself in the glass. And now with Play, I can read my Kindle purchases and have a few extra widgets and apps that make the thing even more enjoyable. For the price, you can’t beat it.

  27. I wouldn’t mind sideloading an emulator that isn’t available in the app store, but it’s not big deal. That’s what my Nexus 7 is for. There is one app I “bought” (as a free app of the day over at Amazon–when the apps were still occasionally good) and I may decide to re-buy it for the Nook, but I can also live without it.

    My biggest gripe is the lack of third-party keyboard support. No Swype on my Nook HD, which means my Nexus 7 will continue to be my workhorse. But reading on the HD is great. I’d missed the stock Nook reader since I sold my old Nook Color.

  28. Logan Kennelly // 4 May, 2013 at 3:30 pm //

    It has third-party keyboard support. Swype has chosen not to support the Nook HD, but Swiftkey and Jelly Bean Keyboard (a Google Play release of the Android 4.2 keyboard) work and support swipe input.

    I actually think the new Jelly Bean Keyboard is almost as good as Swype. It lacks a few shortcuts that make Swype useful, but it’s far from unusable.

  29. Thanks, Logan. I hadn’t caught that yet. I just downloaded the free one-month trial of Swiftkey. Swipe input will make me very happy!

  30. ” They’ve opened up the reader and made it a full on tablet with one software upgrade.”

    See, that is where everyone is wrong. The nook platform is still B&N’s walled garden.

    “What is it you want?”

    I want to do what I have already done. My goal was simply to point out that B&N is still following the same policies that got them into this mess.

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