Barnes & Noble appears to be reversing a decision to stop making color NOOK tablets like the NOOK HD and NOOK HD+.

The company has been offering affordable tablets with an Android-based operating system and a focus on apps for reading digital content from the B&N store for the past few years — but the NOOK lineup hasn’t had the same kind of success as Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets.

In June the company announced plans to discontinue its NOOK tablet line while continuing to produce NOOK eReaders with black and white displays. The idea was to partner with other device makers to continue offering tablets at retail locations. But now the company says it “intends to continue to design and develop cutting-edge NOOK black and white and color devices.”

B&N NOOK lineup

In a conference call today, B&N officials clarified that while they may partner with other companies to actually build upcoming color NOOK tablets, but that B&N plans to design and develop the devices in-house.

According to the new NOOK CEO Mike Mike Huseby, many people misinterpreted what the company meant when it mentioned a possible partnership model in June — although one has to wonder why it’s taken nearly two months to clarify the point.

The “clarification” comes after the departure of former CEO William Lynch… and it’s part of a footnote in the company’s latest earnings report. Incidentally, the report contains pretty lousy news — revenues are down 20 percent from last year.

B&N places partial blame on the lack of a blockbuster book series such as The Hunger Games or 50 Shades trilogies. But the company also clearly faces pretty strict competition as it tries to straddle the line between offering physical books in retail stores and digital books which can be read on eReaders and tablets.

It’s not clear if we’ll see a new NOOK tablet this year, but the company says at least one new NOOK device will be launched before the holiday season.

Pretty much every member of the NOOK family has received a price cut in the past few months. That’s at least partially a response to supply and demand — the company thought there’d be more demand, and produced an awful lot of devices which weren’t selling very well… at least until the price drops.

But since the company appears to be cleaning out inventory of all of its eReader and tablets, it’s hard to predict which one will be replaced with a new model this year. My money would be on a new NOOK Simple Touch, possibly with a higher-resolution display.

Since the company seems to have changed direction on tablets sometime in the past two months, it seems unlikely (but still possible) that we’ll see a new Android tablet in the next few months.

via CNET


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4 replies on “B&N plans to continue developing NOOK tablets after all”

  1. I would already have a Simple Touch, even though it only runs Eclair and is black and white, if it only had an audio output. No one makes an audio player/audiobook reader that’s easy to use in direct sunlight. If they release a new e-ink device with audio output, and they’re still as easily hackable into full Android devices as the current ones, I’ll buy it at the full early-adopter price.

    As for ebooks? I don’t tend to read those outdoors, and the 7″ tablet I already has makes just as good of a reader as their color line (especially since I buy books without DRM when I can, and strip off the DRM when I can’t.)

  2. They made a good move by allowing the play store access. That alone could be a deciding factor over buying a kindle fire for me. Now just get rid of the proprietary charging cables and build a machine with competing specs.

    1. Yup, but they won’t because the publishers won’t yet allow it. I also dislike the practice they (along with darned near everyone else though) have to not want to sell a product, instead wanting me to buy into their ecosystem. You buy their reader you must buy their content because only their locks fit. And once you buy any of their content you will be locked into buying their hardware, even if in the future it isn’t the best choice.

      So the only ebooks I buy are from O’Reilly where they put DRM FREE in big print. Most of a Simple Touch’s internal storage is reserved for B&N content but they do at least throw people like me a bone with the MicroSD slot, unlike Amazon & Google. So at least B&N gets my hardware business.

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