When it comes to skinned, forked, mainly-for-media-consumption Android tablets, Barnes & Noble's Nook HD and Nook HD+ offerings have always played second fiddle to Amazon's Kindle Fires, and a shortage of apps was a big part of that. Now, Nooks are taking a step into real full-fledged tabletdom with a big, big update: the Google.
As of today, Barnes & Noble will be rolling out a firmware update to all Nook HD and Nook HD+ tablets that will let the devices make use of all the Google Apps they never had before. Omissions like Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube will be installed with the update, right alongside Google's own content-peddling apps like Play Books, and Play Magazines. The search giant's Play Music will serve as the first app that can finally bring music to a Nook-user's ears, and for your web-surfing pleasure, Google Chome is the new default browser.
Along with the standard Google Apps, the Play Store Update will let users gorge on the hundreds of thousands of other apps contained therein; no longer will the slim-ish pickings of Barnes & Noble's own Nook apps be the only option. And all Barnes & Noble had to do was let Google's ecosystem ride into its gates. Holding fast and keeping the lion's share of Android apps at bay has been working out well enough for Amazon's Kindle Fire with its more robust Amazon app store, but it looks like the Nook has had enough.
It's a big move, one that will definitely make the Nook HD and Nook HD+ far more appealing tablets, but they're no spring chickens (nor particularly notable in the wider Android-tab world) so this is a little late in the game to try and pick up any competitve edge. Instead, it feels more like an admission that Google-free is not the way to be. There have been rumours floating around that the bookseller has been backing away from its Nook line, and this would definitely support that theory. But it looks like there's still some love there; the kind of love that lets go.