Friday, May 3, 2013

Morning Brief: Barnes & Noble adds Google Play to NOOK HD and NOOK HD+; magazine, newspaper and interactive e-book publishers still see Apple's App Store as their first priority, will this now begin to change?

Rather than try and build out its own app store, NOOK Media LLC, a subsidiary of Barnes & Noble, Inc., today announced that it would be teaming up with Google by adding Google Play to its NOOK HD and NOOK HD+ devices, instantly increasing the number of apps available to its tablet owners. In addition to the more than 700,000 Android apps and games, the change will bring with it music access, as well as Google services like Gmail, YouTube, Google Search, the Chrome browser and Google Maps.

"By adding Google Play to NOOK HD and NOOK HD+, we are offering our customers even more great entertainment on our award-winning tablets,” said William Lynch, chief executive officer of Barnes & Noble in the company's announcement. "Now with access to more than 700,000 apps and the best reading experience available, NOOK HD and NOOK HD+ are must-see products for entertainment lovers looking for high-quality tablets at incredibly low prices."

Google Play and the other Google services will be available to NOOK HD and NOOK HD+ owners in the US and UK through an automatic over-the-air update that will roll out to all devices connected to Wi-Fi beginning today.

For NOOK owners getting access to more Android apps via the Google Play store will be great, but getting Google's apps is even better. As Mike Schuster writes on Minyanville Google's apps generally beat Apple's, with most iPhone users turning to the apps from third party developers rather than using those developed by Apple.

Software has become a major issue with Apple. While the Cupertino company has developed some of the best apps for the iPhone and iPad – apps such as the iWork suite which have effectively locked out Microsoft – in other areas such as iTunes, maps, weather, Apple's offerings are insufficient, or down right disastrous.

With Jony Ive now in charge of software many are expecting major changes in the look and feel of Apple's software products, eliminating the company's use of skeuomorphic design.

But the problem with maps, iTunes, and other Apple offerings is not design, it is the quality of the programming. iTunes, in particular, is a world of hurt.

But Google has fallen behind Apple when it comes to promoting its Android system for reading on tablets. Most media apps seen in Google Play were designed specifically for mobile phones, not Android tablets. It is not at all unusual to find developers porting their iPhone apps to Android, but leaving the tablet editions developed for Apple's Newsstand strictly an iOS affair. As a result, the replica edition completely dominates Android, while interactive magazines, newspapers and e-books are considered the domaine of the iPad.

Google could change this instantly by developing an authoring tool for publishers, but to date their seems to be little interest in approaching this issue from the publisher angle. Today's announcement helps Google sell more media and games inside Google Play through NOOK owners, but it does little to change the perception that Android tablets are simply to be looked at as larger mobile devices.

Today's announcement does make it easier to access NOOK owners, though. Launching a tablet edition into Google Play now makes it available to NOOK owners so that developers of tablet editions can now say that building for Apple's Newsstand, and Google Play, will insure reaching a fairly large percentage of the market for tablet publications.