Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet both get 'upgraded' with reduced functionality

It often happens that when two similar products are competing in the industry, fans will band together to promote their favorite while doing whatever they can to denigrate the other product. This isn't a new phenomenon. As a kid I remember my uncles arguing over Ford vs Chevrolet with the same intensity that I hear in iOS vs Android battles today.

The Amazon Kindle Fire and the Nook Tablet seem like ideal products to build fanboy camps around. They're priced within $50 of each other and are branded products of retailers who've been competing for years.

So yesterday when I heard that Amazon was rolling out the Kindle Fire 6.2.1 update and that it killed root access, I was waiting for the Nook contingent to start jeering. And then I heard that Banes and Noble was rolling out an update for the Nook Tablet that killed side-loading apps from stores other than the official Barnes and Noble app store. I guess when both sides lose it kind of sucks the fun out of flamewars.

So let's look at these two updates more carefully.

This is the Fire update that Amazon promised last week. It's supposed to improve performance of the Silk browser and allow you to customize (or at least remove items from) the carousel of 'recently used things' that dominates the Fire's homescreen. You can also password protect Wi-Fi access, which I assume is the start of giving the Fire some kind of parental controls.

That carousel change is very welcome in our household; we've got two Kindle Fire's attached to a single Amazon account, and what appears in the carousel is synced between devices. So every time the other half reads one of her urban vampire romance novels (or whatever they're called) it shows up in the carousel on my Fire.

The bad news is that if your Fire is rooted, the update will unroot it, at least until the hackers work out a way to re-root. I'm guessing that'll take 48 hours or so.

What's most disappointing about this update is that well before the launch of the Fire, Amazon's Jon Jenkins said that users were free to root the Kindle Fire and that Amazon wouldn't actively try to stop such behavior. I guess they've had a change of heart.

On to the Nook. The official purpose of the new firmware update, 1.4.1, is that it provides minor enhancements based on early customer feedback according to Barnes & Noble. But according to the writer of the Ebook Reader blog those enhancements seem to be removing root access and the ability to sideload apps from Android Market and Amazon's Appstore. Existing apps will continue to work, but you won't be able to sideload any new apps.

XDA-developers has a thread on how to block this update.

So there you have it, a bit of coal in the stockings of both Kindle Fire fans and Nook Tablet enthusiasts. Guess you people were Naughty this year. Neither side wins this round...at least not until those brilliant gadget hackers work their magic and bring back the functionality that Amazon and Barnes & Noble are striving to take away.

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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