Amazon gets a lot of credit for starting the budget tablet craze with the original Kindle Fire. But it was actually Barnes & Noble that released the first subsidized, affordable, 7-inch slate, in the form of 2010's Nook Color. The three generations of B&N's Nook tablets may have been limited by their software, but they also delivered solid hardware and good overall bang for your buck. So we weren't complaining today, when B&N announced that it won't be discontinuing its color Nook tablets after all.
The flip-flop, reported by CNET, comes about two months after Barnes & Noble had said that it would be dropping color (non-E Ink) tablets from its product line. That lineage includes the Nook Color, 2011's Nook Tablet, and last year's Nook HD and Nook HD+, which are now available at bargain-basement discounts.
The move also comes after a fair share of uncertainty and drama surrounding the company's future. Not long after the original announcement about ditching tablets, CEO William Lynch resigned. Chairman Leonard Riggio then took on more authority, considered buying out the company's retail wing, then today said he was backing off of that proposition. All signs point to a company without a clear path.
Where this leaves Barnes & Noble is anyone's guess, but that the company's Android-based Nook tablets are off the chopping block can only be a victory for consumers. Earlier this year, B&N added the Google Play store and the full suite of Google services to the Nook HD and HD+. Nook tablets' software and app selection had long been their Achilles' heel, but their newly discounted prices (US$130 and $150, respectively), high-resolution screens, and Google services now make them quite the bargain.
Just because B&N is resurrecting the Nook tablets, though, doesn't necessarily mean we'll see a new crop this year. The company said that at least one new Nook is lined up for the holidays (we'd place our bet on an updated backlit e-Reader), and other products are being developed.