Barnes & Noble Taps Samsung As Hardware Partner For New NOOK Tablets

Barnes & Noble’s e-reader and tablet division has been in a bit of a tailspin over the past couple of years, but today it announced that it’ll be taking a different approach through a new partnership with Samsung. The partnership brings Samsung on board to create a co-branded version of its Galaxy Tab 4 with custom NOOK software. A 7-inch version goes on sale in the U.S. in early August, and will be sold at Barnes & Noble bookstores and online alongside NOOK e-readers.

Barnes & Noble says it’ll continue to offer the NOOK GlowLight, but this looks like the end of the line for the company’s own more full-featured NOOK line Android-based tablets. The decision to work with Samsung is a key component of the bookseller’s efforts to “rationalize” its NOOK business, the company said in a release, and the co-branding deal means that they can avoid shouldering the cost and risk of producing NOOK tablet hardware themselves.

A Samsung partnership here is similar to what BlackBerry has done with Foxconn for its own hardware business, but in this case Samsung branding is a key part of the deal. These are tablets the Korean maker is already producing, but partnering with NOOK adds a new sales channel, and diversifying the software means they have another alternative to try to find a way to tablet buyers’ hearts. It’ll be interesting to see how these are priced relative to the Galaxy Tab 4 without NOOK, and what kind of Samsung software comes preloaded, if any.

Barnes & Noble had looked at other options in the past for “rationalizing” the NOOK business, including a possible sale to Microsoft, and earlier this year the company confirmed downsizing in its NOOK hardware department. It seems likely now that those losses were a direct result of this deal being in the works, as outsourcing the tablets to Samsung means B&N’s own hardware product line is greatly simplified.