US bookseller Barnes and Noble (B&N) has partnered Google to bring its Google Play content store alongside Google Maps, YouTube, and Google Music services to its range of Nook HD and Nook HD+ tablets.
Available via a Nook device update, the addition of Google Play will include Google's Books service alongside Apps, Games, Music, and Video (TV and Movies).
B&N had previously offered its own tablet app store, claiming a catalogue of 10,000 applications - compared with the 700,000 or more Android smartphone and tablet apps offered by Google Play.
This is a bold move from Barnes & Noble which could be indicative of a wider strategy change and will help it remain competitive in the increasingly crowded Android tablet market.
Providing a compelling app catalogue is a must for a multipurpose device such as a tablet or smartphone; and with only 10,000 apps on offer through its own store compared with the hundreds of thousands available through Google Play, Barnes & Noble wasn't able to compete.
IHS understands apps will continue to be available through the B&N store, as the retailer will maintain an active development strategy in a bid to differentiate its brand. Such a move will need to focus on fewer quality apps, rather than compete head-on with Google Play
Consumers may welcome the addition of Google's Music, Video and other proprietary services, but the need for an increased app catalogue is the key factor here. Third-party services for music and video exist, such as 7Digital and Rovi respectively, but there are few options when it comes to Android apps.
A notable exception is Amazon, which could be a partner for other Android OEMs - but not for B&N. Amazon's Appstore for Android smartphones and Kindle Fire devices has been growing steadily since its 2011 launch. It is interesting to note that alongside providing a competing Google Play bookstore, the addition of Google Play also opens the door for users to download Amazon's Kindle app to Nook devices.
In the smartphone market (and for other Android tablets) it is common for a device to ship with multiple content stores preinstalled (from Google, device manufacturers, and sometimes operators). For most device manufacturers direct revenue from app sales is largely insignificant so it is right for B&N to pursue a strategy that increases its content options. However, it will have to work hard to ensure that the core focus on its bookstore and overall reading experience will be enough to differentiate it from the mass of Android tablets (and from books available from Google Play). Otherwise it will be forced to compete solely on hardware and cost in what could fast become an even more commoditised market.
The addition of Google apps and services will help Nook tablets compete in the immediate term. However this move, coupled with other recent developments from B&N such as cutting the price of the Nook eReader from £79 to £29 in the UK could indicate the start of a wider gradual retreat from the eReader market. Adding Google Play services for its Nook range would ensure continued support for consumers should B&N wish to make such a retreat and may mitigate any damage to its consumer brand.