Status: Under Review
BN has a vested interest in developing their own ecosystem for apps - primarily that the Google Play Store is now a direct competitor to BN/NOOK in core content categories such as ebooks and eperiodicals. I accept that explanation as to why the NOOK platform hasn't been "opened up" (to use such a loaded and incorrect term) to the wider Android ecosystem.
- however -
BN/NOOK simply don't have the mindshare/marketshare to develop an ecosystem on par with Google or Apple. As well as the company has done evangelizing (and they have done a pretty good job in terms of getting some rather big names onto the platform that even established tech companies like Microsoft and RIM have had trouble with), they are always going to be behind in getting the apps that many customers want.
As more and more customers invest in a smartphone and begin to buy into Google's ecosystem, they're going to be less likely to want to repurchase their same apps on a different store. And the "stock" (again, a very loaded term) Android devices continue to fall in price and achieve feature parity with the NOOK line, giving those customers access to their apps at the same price point as a NOOK with comparable hardware. This is not a recipe for a successful long-term venture.
But there is an easy and relatively painless (business-wise) solution.
Android, by default, has the option to allow APK installs from "Unknown Sources" as a setting. This allows the end user to install apps that aren't purchased from the local shop on the device. The NOOK device fork hides this option, but it still exists in the system.
BN/NOOK needs to allow customers access to this option. Checking the "Unknown Sources" box already pops up a warning about malware on "stock" Android devices - simply modify this warning to include information about potential warranty ramifications for NOOK users who do the same. Now, free of charge, customers have access to a much wider selection of apps.
The critique of enabling this option, from a business perspective, is that this would "cost BN sales" in terms of dollars. And this is potentially true in a small number of circumstances, where savvy customers would install the ad-supported free Angry Birds instead of paying the $3 for the BN Shop edition. However, those customers who know enough about Android to locate and install an APK on their own are the customers who are also aware of the slew of generally good "stock" Android devices available near the NOOK pricepoint, and were much more likely to purchase those devices. Giving them the option to install apps would potentially get them into the NOOK ecosystem, and even though there wouldn't be as much app revenue, there's plenty of options to upsell them on other content.
And, more importantly, there is enough friction involved in downloading an APK and installing it manually that the vast majority of customers wouldn't bother. It is a time consuming process to find an APK online, make sure it hasn't been modified for nefarious purposes, and install it on the device. It is the same reason BN can safely support Adobe Digital Editions transferred ebooks - the option is there and a nice selling point, but it's too intensive for the average customer to really care about.
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