B&N NOOK Tablet firmware update blocks app sideloading

Barnes & Noble has slammed shut the loophole allowing NOOK Tablet owners to install third-party apps, pushing out a new firmware update – v1.4.1 – that closes the door on all but the retailer's own, approved software. Described as making "minor system enhancements" to the Android-based ereader by B&N itself, the software significantly limits the general usefulness of the NOOK Tablet for those wanting to do more than basic reading and browsing.The Ebook Reader found that existing apps side-loaded onto the NOOK Tablet are still present and functional after the v1.4.1 firmware has been installed. However, attempting to run a package installer for a new app prompts an error message saying only software from B&N's NOOK Store can be loaded.

That basically means that those who keep up to date with the latest firmware are stuck with Barnes & Noble's selection of around 2,000 apps, rather than the many thousands generally available. The absence of Android Market access was frustrating enough, but B&N specifically locking down the NOOK Tablet in this way is unlikely to win them any fans among owners.

B&N's decision comes as something of a shift in strategy, given how relatively casual toward hacks and mods of the NOOK Color the retailer had appeared. That helped buoy the 7-inch slate among Android enthusiasts, and the NOOK Tablet initially seemed to be more of that same solid recipe. We're checking with B&N to see if this was a purposeful decision on its part, and will update when we know more.