Barnes & Noble's Nook tablets add full Google Play app support

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Barnes & Noble is expanding Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Play support to its Android-powered Nook HD and Nook HD+ tablets, offering users access to more than 700,000 applications and games as well as millions of songs, movies and television programs. Nook owners were previously limited to downloading apps and content offered via the bookseller's own Nook Store.

Barnes & Noble is rolling out Google Play support as an over-the-air software update optimized for Nook owners in the U.S. and U.K. Moving forward, the company will preload Google Play onto Nook HD units, additionally building in core Google services like the Chrome browser, Gmail, YouTube, Google Search and Google Maps. Consumers may also sync calendars across multiple devices and check email from any account including Exchange, Yahoo and Hotmail.

Barnes & Noble will continue to support the Nook Store, which boasts thousands of apps tailored expressly for Nook devices, all organized by subject area, alongside more than 3 million e-books.

Many observers have blamed the relative scarcity of Nook-ready applications for limiting consumer interest in the Barnes & Noble platform. The bookseller's Nook Media unit, which includes hardware as well as e-books and digital media, slumped 25.9 percent year-over-year during the 2012 holiday season to $316 million, but content sales increased 6.8 percent compared to year-ago totals, indicating strong demand for Nook apps and services.

The Google Play agreement also sets Nook apart from Amazon's (NASDAQ:AMZN) rival Kindle platform. Kindle tablets and e-readers do not support Google Play, instead offering consumers access to the Amazon Appstore for Android, Amazon MP3 and the online commerce giant's other digital media initiatives.

Barnes & Noble has said it remains committed to the Nook Media business, dismissing a recent New York Times report indicating the bookseller plans to move away from engineering and building Nook e-readers and tablets in favor of licensing its digital content to other device manufacturers. In recent weeks, the company has also announced Nook Video deals with Paramount Pictures and MGM, additionally partnering with mobile payment services firm Fortumo to offer in-app purchase capabilities.

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