Barnes & Noble goes with the family plan on new Nook HD tablets

Summary:Barnes & Noble hones its tablet strategy firmly with a family-friendly focus.

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Barnes & Noble is upgrading its Nook tablet portfolio with two brand-new models: the 7-inch Nook HD and the 9-inch Nook HD+.

At first glance, it would be easy to assume these are Barnes & Noble's answer to Amazon's recently announced Kindle Fire HD series (which they are to some extent) or even the Nexus 7 and the iPad.

But to stay afloat in the crowded media tablet game, Barnes & Noble is clearing up its strategy by focusing primarily on the family, which has really been the company's stronghold all along.

Since the first Nook Color tablet debuted in 2010, Barnes & Noble has repeatedly used enhanced and interactive children's books and related features as major selling points.

Thus, B&N is taking that several steps further with the Nook HD, describing it as the "first tablet designed for the whole family."

That argument is supported by the addition of personal profiles, which enables Nook HD owners to be able to toggle between up to six different profiles on the same device.

Parents can customize the security settings for each profile. Some of those controls include designating what TV shows and books from the parent's library can be viewable in their kid's profiles as well as setting a pin code to prevent the child from toggling back to any other profiles on the device.

B&N reps explained during a demo presentation on Tuesday that this approach allows for a more sandbox-like, curated experience for younger users. Furthermore, the security settings are not Barnes & Noble-defined policies, but rather they are defined by the parent when initially creating the profiles.

Theoretically, you could save a lot of money and just buy one media tablet for your whole family without having to worry about hiding your own content or not.

Enterprise and Entertainment

Certainly, there are some consumers who will want to look and compare all of the nitty-gritty specs, such as the resolution, weight, etc. Barnes & Noble is touting both products as lighter with better displays compared to some competitors, but in those regards, most of the differences are negligible when it comes to figuring out what you want to do with a tablet.

Barnes & Noble has spruced up the UI experience for reading books and magazines as well as the navigation menu, all of which is built upon Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). One of the more nifty features is called Scrapbook, which essentially replicates ripping out pages of from a magazine and saves them in one digital folder.

For anyone looking to use the 9-inch Nook HD+ for work-related purposes, those features are still limited. There are some helpful new features, including support for Microsoft Exchange email and the addition of Bluetooth, which opens up the possibility for using a physical keyboard with this device as well.

Nevertheless, B&N is better off sticking with the family-friendly and entertainment angles. The latter strategy is getting a boost as the Nook HD series includes support for UltraViolet, a cloud-based licensing system and cross-studio partnership that is working on standardizing physical and digital ownership. Basically, if you buy a DVD with UltraViolet authentication, you would have the same rights to the digital copy included in the buying price.

Barnes & Noble is promising that physical copies of movies and TV shows bought in its stores will also be available for viewing online. B&N will be rolling out a Nook online video platform during the holiday season into next year across iOS, Android, Roku, and Xbox initially, with the Playstation 3 to be added to the list eventually.

Thus, while Amazon and Apple's iTunes have an edge over Barnes & Noble when it comes to the amount of video content available for purchasing and renting on their tablets, B&N's plan with UltraViolet has the potential to be a lot more flexible.

Availability

In terms of pricing, Barnes & Noble is pretty competitive. Here's a rundown:

  • Nook HD (in Snow or Smoke): 8GB -- $199; 16GB -- $229
  • Nook HD+ (in Slate): 16GB -- $269; 32GB -- $299

Note that those prices include the new 30-pin power charger, which looks similar to the old 30-pin connector on iOS devices, but it's actually slightly different. You won't be able to use the same microUSB charger used with older Nook tablet models.

There will also be a separate dongle with a 6-inch HDMI cable for connecting the tablets to TVs and other devices for $39.99. Additionally, the microSD card slot support has been bumped up to a ceiling of 64GB.

All of these will be available for pre-order starting Wednesday, September 26. An exact ship date has not been announced, but Barnes & Noble reps assert that new Nook tablets will be available in stores as well as at Walmart, Target, and with other channel partners in the U.S. and U.K. by the end of October.

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Images via Barnes & Noble

Topics: Tablets, Android, Apps, Mobile OS, Mobility

About

Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider, FastCompany.com, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for MainStreet.com, Irish Americ... Full Bio

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