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Barnes & Noble is partnering with Samsung on a new line of Nook-branded tablets, the companies announced today.

The major bookseller first announced its intentions to bring on a hardware partner last year after revealing to shareholders that Nook Media (a separate entity jointly owned by Barnes & Noble, Microsoft, and Pearson) sales were in steady decline. With Barnes & Noble no longer devoting resources and attention to developing its own tablets, the company should be able to focus on digital media and the overall Nook platform.

The partnership will see Samsung produce a new tablet called the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook. The device will have a 7-inch screen and, like previous Nook tablets, will compete closely with Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX as well as Google’s Nexus 7. (I’m guessing that means it’ll also be a low-priced tablet, although the non Nook-branded Galaxy Tab 4 sells for $200.) The device will run the Nook’s Android-based operating system and will likely feature some cross promotion with Samsung’s digital platforms.

What’s funny about this partnership is that Microsoft is a major stakeholder in Nook Media. It’s interesting that Barnes & Noble chose Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 4 over something from Microsoft, which is already making its own tablets, expanding further into digital media sales, and seeking greater adoption of Windows 8.

The Nook’s biggest problem has always been that Barnes & Noble doesn’t move fast enough to keep pace with competitors who offer consumers a better choice when it comes to digital books, movies, TV shows, and other media. The new partnership with Samsung could revitalize the stale Nook platform, which has dragged far behind Amazon’s Kindle.

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