It's easy to forget, but Barnes & Noble's Nook Color was, in a sense, a "Kindle Fire" before the Kindle Fire ever was. Amazon's bookselling rival launched the first budget 7-in e-reader/tablet hybrid in late 2010, a full year before the 1st-gen Fire hit store shelves. Well, fortunes change, Nook tablets weren't exactly smash hits and today all that's left of B&N's tablet strategy is a new partnership with Samsung.
Let's rewind a bit and brush up on our tablet history, shall we? Barnes & Noble's first tablet, the Nook Color, arrived in late 2010. At this time, your main tablet options were the US$500 iPad and Samsung's $600 7-in Galaxy Tab. At $250, the Nook Color was sold for little or no profit, in an attempt to lock you into B&N's e-book ecosystem (a strategy you'd now associate with Amazon or Google).
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The Nook Color was priced cheap to lock you into B&N's e-book ecosystem, but it wasn't hard to hack into a $250 full-fledged Android tablet
But since the Nook Color was easily hackable, many a customer bought the device, wiped its reading-focused software and replaced it with traditional Android software (including Android's app store, then known as the Android Market). More than three years ago, snagging a full-fledged Android tablet for $250 (and just a little bit of elbow grease) felt like quite the accomplishment.
But as Amazon launched its more popular Kindle Fire, and Google released a cheap yet high-quality tablet that required no hacking whatsoever (the Nexus 7), the Nook tablets were left to their original intended audience: hardcore readers devoted to the Barnes & Noble ecosystem. Apparently that first year without any Kindle Fire or Nexus 7 rivals wasn't long enough to build that audience to a sustainable level.
The Samsung version of the mid-ranged device that Barnes & Noble is pinning its tablet future on, the Galaxy Tab 4
Which brings us to today, when Samsung and Barnes & Noble announced that the next Nook tablet will simply be a Galaxy Tab 4 with some B&N software tacked on. Like older Nook tablets (the Nook Color, Nook Tablet and Nook HD), the 7-in Galaxy Tab 4 Nook will run Android, but with a reading-centric UI that's focused on getting you to buy (and enjoy) Barnes & Noble e-books. It will include the Google Play Store, so you'll have plenty of apps to choose from – no hacking required. There are no hardware differences between the standard and Nook versions of the Galaxy Tab 4.
Unless you're a big Nook reader, the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook probably isn't going to be a particularly noteworthy product. It's an existing Samsung tablet (a mid-ranged one at that), with some reading-focused software in place of Samsung's TouchWiz UI. But it does make for an interesting footnote in tablet history, does it not? The Barnes & Noble-built tablet, the oft-forgotten precursor to more successful budget slates, is officially dead. In its place, yet another Samsung device. You could say that there's something symbolic to read among those tea leaves.
The Galaxy Tab 4 Nook goes on sale this August, both in Barnes & Noble stores and at the book vendor's US website. No pricing info has been announced, but it will likely ring up for $200 or less.
Source: Barnes & NobleView gallery - 3 images