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Next hook for Nook? Video apps

Barnes & Noble unveils a suite of video apps -- including one that can play movies and shows on rival tablets -- as it turns its back on manufacturing. Can content save the venture?

The Nook HD+.
The Nook HD+. Sarah Tew/CNET

Last time Barnes & Noble stepped out of its comfort zone, things didn't turn out well.

After last month saying it would cease designing and manufacturing its color tablets, the bookseller's Nook subsidiary has unveiled a suite of video apps that let users watch movies and TV shows on a range of devices, including the tablet rivals that have dogged the company's own e-reader.

The apps, which are free, work for iOS, Android and Roku devices, such as iPads, iPhones, Android tablets, and TVs connected with Roku streaming players. Nook customers will get access to Nook Video through a specially designed app that is automatically appearing in their lockers starting Monday.

It is the first sign that Barnes & Noble's Nook arm is groping to finds its way after announcing it would jettison its business making tablets like its Nook HD and Nook HD+, followed shortly thereafter by the news that CEO William Lynch would resign. That marked the departure of a tech-focused executive who rose to the company's helm from its online business, and put more authority in the hands of Leonard Riggio, Barnes & Noble's chairman and biggest shareholder.

At the time, Barnes & Noble said it wasn't searching for a CEO successor, and would instead it review its strategy and "update when appropriate." Since then, the only peeps out of Barnes & Noble about the division have been more discounts to devices such as Sunday's $20 price cut to the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight, the second reduction since September.

Discounts on the Nook were the main culprit behind Barnes & Noble's last quarterly report plagued by losses. The company is supposed to report its performance in the most recent quarter Tuesday.

The new video apps make Barnes & Noble's Nook store more applicable for more devices, after the company had made its own device more applicable to other companies' shops. In May, it added the Google Play store to meet market and customer demand for access to the full breadth of Android apps, but it also gave customers the opportunity to buy e-books and other content from Google just a few swipes away from the Nook store.

In the Nook Store, movies and TV shows are available to purchase or rental, and now can be streamed or downloaded on Nooks or on other devices through the video apps. Customers can also shift their viewing across devices, starting a movie on one and then picking up on another.

If nothing else, that may alleviate customers' fears that their content purchases will go up in smoke if Nook flames out.