Amazon and Barnes & Noble may put the brakes to Android hacking

Amazon and Barnes & Noble may put the brakes to Android hacking

Summary: Android device makers have so far been tolerant of the homebrew community, but Amazon and Barnes & Noble may not have that luxury when the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet hit the stores.

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TOPICS: Security, Amazon
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Barnes & Noble made it clear at the launch event for its Nook Tablet that it has the Amazon Kindle Fire firmly in its sights. The tablets from the two companies are pushing media sales for both, and ratcheting up the ebook wars a notch. With so much on the line, and both companies depending on selling content to make a profit, will these be the first Android tablets that get locked down from hacking?

I recently wrote that the homebrew community was likely itching to get hold of both the Nook Tablet and the updated Nook Color announced yesterday. This community has hacked the original Nook Color since its release, and it has become a popular tablet to open up with homebrew software. B&N has ignored this activity as it didn't impact the bottom line, but that may not be the case with these new devices.

Neither company has verified that it is selling these tablets at a loss, but those familiar with how much these things cost to build believe that is so. Even if the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet aren't being sold at a loss, it is close to break-even at best. This means the entire business model for both companies is to sell the devices as a loss leader with the intention of making a profit from ongoing media sales.

Both companies are big in the ebook retail business, and are augmenting that with audio/video content deals too. B&N made a big deal out of Netflix and Hulu Plus integration on the Nook Tablet, and Amazon already has its video-on-demand service for Prime members. Because of these add-ons to make the business viable, there are contracts in place with third party content providers.

These contracts may play into how Amazon and B&N deal with those hacking the tablets, as content providers are very intolerant when it comes to homebrew and hacking. They want devices locked down to prevent unauthorized users from accessing the content.

What we may see when the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet hit the market is that the two companies behind them start locking the devices to stop rooting and software manipulation. The combination of depending on content sales for profitability and having to honor contractual obligations to third party content providers may be enough to put a stop to any hacking that occurs.

Neither company has stated it intends to lock these tablets down, but that doesn't mean they aren't considering it. If they do it will start a real battle with the homebrew community, which has managed to work with just about every Android-based device around. It will certainly get sticky, if it comes to locking down the tablets.

Don't forget that B&N will be offering free in-store support for the Nook Tablet. This is not the only new free service as Amazon is offering free book lending to Kindle owners. These are purely costs to the companies, and they may not like them accessed on devices that have been rooted and modified by owners.

Both Amazon and B&N are using forks of the Android code, and as a result will not be able to tap into Google's Android services like the Market. This will likely be something the homebrew efforts will want to address, so perhaps even Google will get involved at some point.

While Android device makers have been mostly willing to turn their backs to the homebrew happenings in the past, this may not be the case with Amazon and B&N due to the reasons noted. It will bear watching to see how this plays out when the devices hit buyers' hands.

Image credit: Flickr user zodman

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Topics: Security, Amazon

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15 comments
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  • RE: Amazon and Barnes & Noble may put the brakes to Android hacking

    I knew a few people who purchased the Nook Color just because it had been hacked and given more capability.
    lambtron__40
  • RE: Amazon and Barnes & Noble may put the brakes to Android hacking

    They can do whatever they want. The kind of sales numbers these devices are seeking do not depend on a relatively small number of purchases by hackers. There are getting to be some decent general purpose tablets for <$250.
    deathjazz
  • RE: Amazon and Barnes & Noble may put the brakes to Android hacking

    I'm missing the logic in some of your argument. The premium 3rd party services are accessed via account logins independent of the source OS so why would they care how you get there as long as you're properly signed up? Also I would like to think that anyone with the skills/resources to root and reload their device would be unlikely to expect to find qualified support for their modified device at the store counter.
    matulewicz_paul@...
    • RE: Amazon and Barnes & Noble may put the brakes to Android hacking

      @matulewicz_paul@...

      A rooted device may well defeat the DRM on legitimately-purchased content. Also, a rooted device will be able to obtain apps somewhere other than through the seller.
      fairportfan
      • RE: Amazon and Barnes & Noble may put the brakes to Android hacking

        @fairportfan

        That might be the case, except for the Amazon Kindle apps already run on my de-facto "rooted" Windows7 PC, Ubuntu PC, and then the actually rooted EVO4g running CM7. The Prime vids don't run on my Evo, but run fine on Windows and Ubuntu. Netflix also added CyanogenMod7 compatiblity recently, so I don't think the DRM thing is a concern. Since everything has account logins, I think @matulewicz_paul is correct.
        admiraljkb
    • RE: Amazon and Barnes & Noble may put the brakes to Android hacking

      @matulewicz_paul@... Those were the same thoughts I had. The biggest impediment I see is whatever caused the companies to want to fork the code in the first place. Generally, mods are working from original Android source code, and would lose whatever custom functionality Amazon or B&N baked in to their O/S, which may make people not want to use the mods.
      chadness
      • RE: Amazon and Barnes & Noble may put the brakes to Android hacking

        @chadness <br><br>I am absolutely sure that those who bought these devices and apply mods do NOT want the "custom functionality Amazon or B&N baked into their O/Ss". They're in it for the hardware and make it a full-fledged tablet at a discounted price.
        CyberGuerilla
    • RE: Amazon and Barnes & Noble may put the brakes to Android hacking

      @matulewicz_paul@... <br><br>Amazons Kindle Fire has eliminated just about every 3rd party media services from their app store (for the Fire), so your "forced" into using their native Amazon services. This is why many believe Amazon didn't include the sd-card slot solely because of rooting. <br><br>Because the Nook Tablet already offers many services found with normal Android, they really don't care if you root your Nook. In fact, about 8 months ago, BN released the stock 1.0 software for the Nook Color. So if you ever wanted to remove CM7, or just get the latest BN update (at 1.4 now), you could revert back to 1.0 stock and move from there (although BN didn't confirm the stock 1.0 release for this reason). And while any version of BN software is on your Nook (versions 1.0-1.4), your warranty is left intact.

      If nothing else, BN might encourage rooting because of publicity. CM7 shows over half a million Nook Colors are running their custom rom (And almost 1.5 million nightly downloads). If they've sold 4 million of them, thats 1 out of 8 people that have a CM7 Nook. And this doesn't count the number of people that only rooted their Nook Color
      Fat Albert 1
  • RE: Amazon and Barnes & Noble may put the brakes to Android hacking

    It's simple, really. The reason I mod my equipment is the same reason I do not and will not purchase Apple gear. The equipment is mine to do with as I will; not theirs.

    As for buying stuff elsewhere, if you want my business, make sure you offer products I want, at a competitive price. Any attempts to lock me into buying from you and you alone will - I say again "will - result in alternative actions. If that means not buying, using, supporting, or recommending your products, so be it.

    You want tablets to take off and become the major piece of equipment used? Then unlock them and make them general purpose, like PC's. That's what modders are trying to do.

    Get with that program and structure your marketplace around it. You'll own the market.

    Anything else is short-sighted and counter-productive. Not to mention stupid.
    WCarlS
  • RE: Amazon and Barnes & Noble may put the brakes to Android hacking

    When I was recently in a B&N store, the Nook sales person was promoting to me the ability of the Nook to be rooted.

    I've ordered the Kindle Fire because the price point is so compelling. Whether or not it can be rooted, I think a lot of other people are doing the same.
    chapelhillice
    • RE: Amazon and Barnes & Noble may put the brakes to Android hacking

      @chapelhillice
      Yeah, geeks are like that. (I should know... hehe) Oddly enough, the employees with iPhones in the ATT store across from my old work all had jailbroke iPhones. Go figure. :)

      I've got a Fire on order as well, and largely due to me already having Amazon Prime, the ebooks are cheaper, and one of my magazines already went digital only subscriptions. If it's like my EVO4g, I'll only root it when I have to, because if there isn't a need, why go through the trouble? (in my EVO's case it was all the Sprint bloatware sucking down space that I needed back)
      admiraljkb
  • RE: Amazon and Barnes & Noble may put the brakes to Android hacking

    If the Nook Tablet can't be booted to a different OS from the microSD card, it loses its only real advantage I saw to the less expensive Kindle Fire and they will have lost a sale.
    sullivanjc
  • RE: Amazon and Barnes & Noble may put the brakes to Android hacking

    I own a Nook color and have rooted it, and returned it to factory state. The only ebooks I have bought have been from barns and noble and that will continue as long as they support the options to root their devices. Once that changes I will consider other options for my ebook purchases, and ereaders. I vote with my money
    darkside6966@...
  • I got intimidated and never rooted..... now I'm happy I didn't

    I bought a 32gb micro sd card with the full intention to root my nook color.....but got intimidated by the various options and procedures. I have looked into n2a and rootmynook and am considering paying for their assistance but the more I procrastinate the more invested and pleased I am with the Nook proprietary system. I now have close to 60 apps from the B&N store and am not missing the vast Android market. In fact I am enjoying watching the B&Nstore build daily withe the addition of hand picked quality and best selling apps. I have a young family and am finding the nook color to be excellent for both education and entertainment and as a great way to keep up with what is going on in the world... oh and would be remiss if I didn't mention that it shines as a book and magazine reader. Maybe one day Ill still root it.....I like having that option.....but for now we are getting tons of value and anxiously awaiting netflix and hulu plus apps!
    FC123
  • RE: Amazon and Barnes & Noble may put the brakes to Android hacking

    Netflix recently changed their app to run on CM7, so they don't have a problem with it. Bezos also said earlier they weren't going to take great measures to secure the Fire against rooting. I've forgotten where I saw that article. Some of the industry abandoning the locked down bootloader like HTC and Motorola, giving up on the arms race which every company has been on the losing end of since day one. To try and stay ahead in that race involves spending more resources than it is worth. The "cure" at that point for the companies is worse than the "illness".

    I'm curious where the ideas behind the opinions in the article came from? Seems like baseless speculation given current industry directions. (that is unless I missed something, which is why I'm asking the question)
    admiraljkb