Barnes & Noble has announced that it's going to spin off its colour tablet line, which will see third-party manufacturers produce the Android table range under the Nook name. In a press release, B&N explained that it will create a "partnership model for manufacturing in the competitive colour tablet market".
The move is clearly driven by poor financial performance, and the company explains that it will reduce "risks associated with manufacturing".
Interestingly, B&N will continue to develop its Simple Touch and Glowlight ereaders in-house, while its tablet line will be co-branded with a "yet to be announced third party manufacturers of consumer electronics products".
The news doesn't come as a massive surprise: there have been rumblings about B&N giving up on Nook since the start of the year. And when a spokesperson blurted out that the company had "no plans to discontinue [its] award-winning line of NOOK products", the message was ambiguous enough to virtually guarantee some change to the way the product range was run.
Regardless, the announcement does raise some big questions. Firstly, it'll be interesting to see how B&N handles quality control once manufacturing duties are out of its hands. When someone else is making your product, you really need to be confident they're doing a good job. That said, it might not be too big a concern -- quality's never been massively high in the Nook tablet range anyway.
More generally though, a lack of confidence in the tablet range hints at the fact that the Android tablet market is proving tough -- even for companies that can manufacture reasonable quality, affordable devices backed by a decent name. If B&N is hedging its bets, it will be interesting to see if others follow suit. [Business Wire]