We saw this coming, but that doesn’t make the news any less sad. In a fiscal year-end financial results report, Barnes & Noble announced it’ll no longer make Nook-branded tablets. The remaining Nook HD, Nook HD+, and any other tablets, currently selling for heavily discounted prices, will no longer be available after the stock runs out. However, the bookseller will continue to make Nook Simple Touch and Glowlights in-house.
Barnes & Noble isn’t abandoning the digital space completely. In addition to delivering e-books to E Ink Nook devices, the company will also develop and create Nook apps for mobile platforms. It’s a good guess that some of the features that B&N reserved for the Nook devices, such as advanced support for magazines, catalogs, comics, and enhanced kids books, will show up in apps for other devices. The report also mentions new apps, perhaps indicating that Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10 will finally get official apps.
The bottom line is that tablets cost a lot to manufacture. Unlike some competitors, Barnes & Noble actually designed and developed its devices in-house. When the Nook Color first launched, it was the only Android tablet worth having at that low of a price point. Now there’s not only competition from Apple’s iPad Mini, but, also from Amazon’s Kindle Fire, Google’s Nexus 7, Samsung’s Galaxy line, and several other small tablets in the $200 range. It looks like B&N will partner up with a company that can handle the manufacturing part. According to the report, “the company’s tablet line will be co-branded with yet to be announced third-party manufacturers of consumer electronics products.”
It would be nice if another tablet manufacturer picked up on the Nook user interface, particularly in the way it handled profiles and parental controls. This may also be a way for B&N to protect the investment it’s made in non-e-book Nook content, like Nook Video.
So what happens with existing Nook HD and HD+ models? Barnes & Noble will continue to sell them until (presumably) the stock runs out at the current low prices of $130 and $150. The report says that post-sales support will continue, so owners can still get help if something goes wrong. No word on how long this support will still be available. The digital bookstore will continue to get upgrades and improvements since that affects all Nook digital products, including the apps for Android and iOS.
Hopefully, B&N will also do something with the long-forgotten Mac and Windows desktop apps (they disappeared from the company’s site some time ago and only recently returned). Still, they’ve seen no update for over a year and aren’t compatible with all Nook content.
Should you buy a Nook HD or Nook HD+ given this news? Official support won’t last forever, and if it breaks there may not be a replacement available. However, the tablets are no longer wholly dependent on B&N for apps thanks to unfettered access to the Google Play store. And, for the price, they’re the best Android tablet deals available right now. Once they’re gone, we’re going to miss them.