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.