The original Nook Color was a veritable toy box for Android modders, and remains a popular platform for custom ROMs and other Android tablet modifications. Barnes & Noble’s newer Nook Tablet has proven a tougher nut to crack, with a locked bootloader and just 1GB of user-accessible space. But Nook Tablet users with an eye for modding could at least take advantage of a loophole in the modified Gingerbread software, which allowed any app downloaded from the Tablet’s browser to be installed via Android’s built-in installer. The eBook Reader reports that with the latest Nook Tablet firmware release, 1.4.1, Barnes & Noble has closed this loophole, making advanced modification much more difficult for any user who updates.
Considering the locked bootloader, this change in the Nook Tablet’s software is not unexpected. Barnes & Noble is certainly aware of how popular the Nook Color was and is as a modder’s cheap tablet, and have not raised any serious objections thus far. But as pieces of consumer electronics, the Nook Color and Nook Tablet are sold on extremely thin margins with the expectation that users will buy books and other media from Barnes & Nobles and its partners, justifying the low profits on the hardware itself. Every user who buys a Nook without the intention of using it primarily as a reader for Barnes & Noble’s ebooks is undermining their business model. Since advanced users aren’t breaking any laws, the best that the company can hope to do is frustrate their aftermarket efforts.
The solution for those who want to keep modding their tablets is simple: don’t upgrade to version 1.4.1 on the Nook Tablet’s software, at least until another work-around is found. Those who have already updated can flash to the original retail image and work forward from there. Strangely, third-party apps that have already been installed on updated tablets are still working, so users who already modified the Nook Tablet and gotten it to their desired level of functionality will probably be able to wait it out until someone finds another weakness in the device’s software armor.
When this sort of thing happens to an Android smartphone, I tend to get very irate. But remember that the Nook series of tablets only uses Android as a means to an end – Barnes & Noble is using these readers to keep their entire business relevant as the world shifts to ebooks. It’s hard to blame them for protecting such a forward-looking business model, even if it does mean that a much loved avenue of Android modding is closed off.