Amazon isn’t the only company pushing out a software update that kills root access this week. Barnes & Noble has started rolling out version 1.4.1 of its software for the NOOK Tablet, and users that have rooted their $249 tablets are reporting that the update removes root access.
It also removes the ability to sideload apps on the tablet that you haven’t downloaded from the B&N Shop. If you’ve already installed third party apps they’ll continue to function, but you will no longer be able to download and install APK files from the internet or load software downloaded from the Android Market, Amazon Appstore or other third party app stores.
The B&N NOOK Tablet is a 7 inch tablet with a modified version of Google Android. It’s designed to let you read eBooks and magazines, stream movies and TV shows from Netflix and Hulu, and download hundreds of apps and games from the B&N Shop.
But when the tablet started shipping in November, early customers realized that they could download many Android apps from the internet and install them on the tablet. It was even possible to root the tablet and install the Google Android Market.
Unfortunately this week’s update seems to remove some of that functionality.
The NOOK Color, which Barnes & Noble released in 2010 has proven popular with tweakers who have discovered ways to run an operating system installed on an SD card. This lets you keep the official B&N software on the device, but choose to boot CyanogenMod 7, Ubuntu, or a different operating system when you turn on the device.
The NOOK Tablet has a faster processor and more storage than the NOOK Color, but there’s currently no way to boot an operating system from an SD card or replace the official B&N software with an alternate operating system.
It’s likely that the 1.4.1 software update won’t be a problem for most NOOK Tablet users. But if you have a rooted device or want to preserve the ability to sideload applications, you might want to turn off WiFi to prevent you tablet from downloading the update and look into ways to prevent the device from installing over-the-air updates automatically.
There’s also a way to force your NOOK Tablet to restore software version 1.4.0 by loading a zip file on a microSD card — but it will force a factory reset which means you’ll lose any current data.
Update 12/24/2011: There’s now a way to sideload apps on a NOOK Tablet even after updating to software version 1.4.1, and even if you don’t have root access after updating. In order for this to work you‘ll have needed to root your tablet running OS 1.4.0, or at least enabled support for sideloading. Our guide also includes steps for rolling back from OS 1.4.1 to 1.4.0 so you can root before upgrading — but that process involves a factory reset, which means you will lose your data and settings.
Update 12/29/2011: It’s now also possible to upgrade to OS 1.4.1 while rooting the NOOK Tablet.