* Will bring number of "apps" to 750,000 from 10,000
* Move is an improvement, though not a "game-changer"-
By Phil Wahba
May 3 Barnes & Noble Inc aims to make
its "Nook" tablets more appealing to consumers by offering
buyers access to Google Inc's apps store, hoping to generate
interest in a device that has made little headway against
Amazon.com Inc's Kindle and Apple Inc's iPad.
The top U.S. bookstore chain, trying to reverse a drop in
sales last holiday season of its Nook devices, which include
e-readers, announced it would add Google Play to its Nook HD and
Nook HD+ devices as of Friday.
The move will bring the number of apps on the Nook HD and
Nook HD+ tablets, which first came to market in November, to
750,000 from about 10,000, or roughly the same as the iPad, in
an effort to remedy what the company recognizes is the Nook's
Achilles heel: a limited selection of "apps" or software.
"This deal is about plugging that gap. Consumers told us
they wanted more apps," Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch told
Nook HD and Nook HD+ devices sold in stores as of Friday
will already have Google Play installed. Existing customers will
be able to download it at Nook's online store and via an
automatic over-the-air update.
The tablets will also have Google services like Gmail,
YouTube, Google Maps, and the Chrome web browser.
"It's a positive product enhancement- adding the android
features is a great step. It makes this device competitive,"
said Sarah Rotman Epps, a senior analyst with Forrester
Research, who nonetheless said the move was not a game changer
in the fight against large tech giants whose devices have more
Google Play is expanding its offering quickly: in the last
year, it has rapidly closed the gap with Apple's
market-dominating apps store in terms of sheer quantity, with
both expected to hit 1 million soon.
The collaboration with Google comes as Barnes & Noble is
seeking to reignite customer interest in its Nook, the core part
of its Nook Media unit. The bookseller is considering spinning
off the Nook Media unit and has already attracted investments
from Microsoft Corp and Pearson LLC.
The Nook, launched in 2009 to compete with the Kindle, has
been the cornerstone of Barnes & Noble's strategy to benefit
from the shift by many readers to digital books.
The retailer sold fewer devices during the crucial holiday
season, with revenue in the overall Nook business including
content falling 12.6 percent.