Google Play comes to NOOK tablets
“And the walls come tumblin’ down…”
Barnes & Noble sent me a
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.
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
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.