Google Play comes to NOOK tablets

Google Play comes to NOOK tablets

“And the walls come tumblin’ down…”

Barnes & Noble sent me a

press release

and then I saw this other places as well (including a heads-up from Joseph Holmberg, one of my readers.

Google Play is now going to appear on NOOK tablets.

This is an important tipping point moment.

Right away, I think people may see it on the surface as a tactical  move against Amazon’s Fire tablets. Amazon doesn’t have access to Play on their tablets: Barnes & Noble does.

Yes, people will certainly see that as a competitive advantage for Barnes & Noble. For people who haven’t decided which way to go, it gives B&N a big leg up.

However…

This goes much deeper than that. That is only the tip of the “hypeberg”, so to speak. ;)

Both Barnes & Noble and Amazon have been primarily content providers in the past. They have sold books, which I think most people would still see as Barnes & Noble’s main focus (I’m not sure everybody thinks of Amazon that way any more).

When B&N introduced the NOOK, it was a “reader’s tablet”. You used it to get content from B&N.

Now, suddenly, that’s not the focus of the device at all.

Let’s think of Barnes & Noble as…a restaurant.

You went in, and you bought what was on their menu.

Now, when you walk in and sit down, they give you their menu…but they also give you a super menu that has the menus for ten other major restaurant chains, and you can order from them. You want a Round Table pizza delivered to your Barnes & Noble table? Fine, no problem.

The restaurant’s own menu has almost nothing on it that isn’t on those other menus, and there is a ton more choices on the other menus.

Why would you order from the restaurant’s own menu at all? It means you have to look in two different places…and one of them almost always has what you want, and the other one doesn’t.

That’s a real question: why would Barnes & Noble continue to offer their own appstore, videos, or music? That’s a lot of work, which Google will do if they don’t.

Yes, Barnes & Noble would probably make more profit on their own “menu”, but not if it isn’t making many sales for them.

I didn’t mention books on purpose, but Google Play also has books. If they ramp up that part of the store, good luck to B&N in competing…even on their own tablets.

The NOOK line has just become a hardware business, not a content business.

That then brings in another question: will people continue to buy NOOK tablets if they see them as just another tablet choice? When they don’t see them as “Barnes & Noble’s reader’s tablets” but as a direct competitor to, say, the Nexus or a Samsung?

I really think this move could lead to Barnes & Noble getting out of the tablet business eventually, or it becoming just a minor sideline.

Now, there is another important point here.

Know what else is in the Google Play store?

The Kindle app.

My  understanding  is that this means that NOOK owners can just download the Kindle app from Google Play, and with no rooting, nothing fancy at all, enjoy their Kindle e-books on their NOOK tablets.

That’s an awful big celebrity to invite to your birthday party. ;) It makes it a little hard to keep the focus on you.

My guess is that there are some really significant changes in store (so to speak) for B&N in the next year, and this is part of it.

Should Amazon respond?

The first question is whether or not it is up to them.

While I see people blithely saying that Amazon just hasn’t paid some licensing fee to Google, I haven’t really found something that shows that is the case.

There are more references to Amazon and “walled gardens” on the internet than there are anacondas in the actual Amazon river. ;)

Amazon is actually pretty open. They allow installation of apps from “unknown sources”. I’ve done that several times…directly from sites, like Zinio, and from other resources, like 1Mobile.

I’m careful only to do it with apps I trust, since, naturally, I take the responsibility when I install an app Amazon hasn’t tested for the Fire.

That, by the way, is going to be another major headache for Barnes & Noble with this move. They are going to get so many Customer Service contacts (which are quite expensive) about things people have downloaded from Google Play that don’t work right on their NOOK tablets (or even just about how to play them). If B&N just keeps directing them somewhere else, that’s going to be a turn off.

Back to Amazon and competitors…Amazon has apps for competitors in their Amazon Appstore. For example, they have the Netflix app: a direct competitor for Amazon Instant Video.

Does every single flavor and variety of SmartPhone that wants to be listed as compatible on Google Play pay licensing fees? They might, certainly, but I don’t know that.

I think it’s quite possible that it has been Google that has not listed the Fire, rather than the Fire which has not been made compatible in some way with Google Play.

Being compatible would be different from having the Play store natively on your device (which is what I think the NOOK tablets will have)…the latter likely would require a fee.

Will we some day have access to Google Play on our Kindle Fires? I think that’s possible. I do think a key purpose of the Fire is to get people signed up for Prime, where they will then buy profitable physical products (“diapers and windshield wipers”). Having people buy from Google Play wouldn’t necessarily impact that. I also think it’s important to note that Amazon is a producer and supplier of video in a way that Barnes & Noble isn’t…however, I suppose they could make those things available in Google Play if they had the Play store on Fires.

I don’t think that’s going to happen right away in response to this move from Barnes & Noble.

If you are losing a hot air balloon race, you might start throwing everything over board to lighten the load…in this case, B&N is throwing over their own content provision for the tablets.

If you are in the lead, like Amazon, you can afford to keep those items on board…for now.

One other quick note: this does not impact the NOOK reflective screen devices (non-tablets). You don’t install apps on those, just as you don’t install apps on RSKs (Reflective Screen Kindles).

===

Bonus tip: I’m trying not to write just about the Fire in a post, when I can avoid it. :)

For those of you who have missed having the free Kindle store book listings at eReaderIQ.com, try

http://www.freereadfeed.com/

I’m hoping to give you a bit more information about it soon.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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14 Responses to “Google Play comes to NOOK tablets”

  1. Janice Says:

    It really bugs me that I can’t get Google Play Store on my Fire HD ! It doesn’t make sense and I don’t understand why Amazon and Google won’t work together to accomplish this.

    • Albert Says:

      I think it’s for the same reason you can’t read ePubs on an e-ink Kindle — Amazon likes to have some control over its ecosystem.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Albert!

        Well, that one is a bit different, because that one does involve licensing through Adobe (when you are talking about EPUBs with DRM…Digital Rights Management). If an EPUB doesn’t have DRM, it can be converted for a reflective screen Kindle, using Calibre.

        Amazon does allow EPUBs with DRM on the Fires, since it allows the Overdrive app even in its own Appstore. Of course, that’s for EPUBs from public libraries, but Amazon doesn’t really control that area.

        I do think Amazon likes having “control over its ecosystem”, but they don’t restrict people to using that ecosystem.

        I have to think about Google’s possible motivation for excluding the Fire as a compatible device, if that’s what is happening…

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Janice!

      We don’t know that they aren’t trying to work together, but it hasn’t happened yet.

      I tend to lay some of the blame on the app providers, like the BBC…why do they make the app only available through Google Play? If they had it on their own sites, the problem would be solved.

  2. Edward Boyhan Says:

    A couple of points. The major shareholder in BN (Leonard Riggio, BN’s Chairman) has made a private tender to acquire all the BN bookstores leaving the college book business, and the Nook as BN. If that comes to pass that will certainly change the dynamics — not sure how though. The MS investment hasn’t seemed to lead anywhere either — not sure that it ever will.

    On the Amazon side, while the Fires don’t have access to the Google Play store, most of the Android apps not in the Amazon Android store can bet gotten from 3rd party app stores like 1mobile, or getjar.

    The only apps you cannot get on the Fire are those that require logging in to a Google account. Even that can be overcome if one is willing to install the Google services component on your Fire. This is not rooting, but it is more than I’m willing to do. Mostly this means that Google corporate apps like G+, Gmail, Chrome, etc which require logging in to Google will not install. That’s not to say you can’t use these services — you just have to access them via the web site — the Android app versions will not install.

    I also don’t see Amazon and Google coming to terms here. The requirement to log onto Google would mean that some Amazon customer info would be captured by Google — not something Amazon is gonna want to do. Capture of customer info is one of the big battlegrounds shaping up among all the cloud players.

    For those who want to install the Google services component, how to do this can be found somewhere over on the mobileread.com site.

  3. gous Says:

    B&N clearly has lots of excess stock they are tryingto get rid of, as one can see in their increasingly frantic 1-for-two offers and temporary price cuts. This is really a last throw of the dice to clear their stock.

    ‘The NOOK line has just become a hardware business, not a content business.’ Actually I think this move pretty much is a signal that they will be abandoning the hardware side of the business. They could not make a profit by selling hardware at razor thin margins and making it up on content sales. So now they will somehow better their business by selling hardware at razor thin margins and …?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, gous!

      Well, I didn’t say it was a good hardware business. ;) As I mentioned, I’m not sure why people would elect for a NOOK tablet if they don’t perceive it as being special to Barnes & Noble…and having Google Play tends to negate that perception.

      The NOOK tablet line might not last long this way…Microsoft poured all that money into B&N, but I don’t see them wanting to take it over. We’ll see, though.

  4. John S Hagewood Says:

    I just picked up a 32GB Nook HD+ for a paltry $199 at Target (price good through Mothers Day, that $100 off!). Once I read that Google Play was now allowed on Nook, I figured I could install the Kindle Android App and life would be good. And if I need to re-read one of the 800+ books I bought at eReader,com and Fictionwise (which are now in my Nook account) I can use if for that too.

    so, I just installed Kindle app. It crashed a few times when downloading, but I got 1Q84 downloaded and am reading fine with it now. Lovely screen. Great price!

  5. tellthetruth1 Says:

    I noticed in many Fire reviews, at the time I bought mine that people were upset that they couldn’t get Play to work. It didn’t bother me as I’ve never had reason to use it. If we get it, I’ll have a look around, but I’ve so far found everything I need on Am’s app store. :)

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, tellthetruth1!

      I don’t really see the advantage of Play at this point. Amazon vets the apps submitted to its appstore for the Fire, so they won’t damage it and so that they’ll work. I have had two problems with apps that didn’t work from Amazon’s appstore…one of them opened, but didn’t perform its primary function. There are certainly apps in Play that I’d love to have for my Fire…but only if they worked on it. :)

      • tellthetruth1 Says:

        I agree, Bufo. For me, it’s usually the free games that cause trouble. I’ve had to delete two or three of them as they just would not function. Jen

      • MikeOnBike Says:

        For me, the main advantage of the Google Play store would be access to Google’s apps (Gmail, Drive, etc.)

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, MikeOnBike!

        I access that through the Maxthon browser on my Fire…not by apps, but web-based. Do you typically download and install an app to access your Drive, or just go to a website?

      • MikeOnBike Says:

        On my Android phone, I keep some Google Docs offline in the Google Drive app so I can get to them fairly quickly, without needing a wireless connection. And the current Drive app is slicker than the mobile web interface. Quicker to search, quicker to edit, etc. It would be nice if I could have the same app on the Fire.

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