My 6-year-old daughter absolutely loves playing with my iPad. Unfortunately, my work schedule often conflicts with her playtime, and I have yet to figure out how to split the iPad in two and have it still work.

The ideal solution would have been to buy her an iPad mini. However, I just can’t justify spending $329 on my daughter on the fly. After all, there isn’t a major holiday in sight, and her birthday isn’t until December. Besides, I refuse to purchase a first-generation iPad mini at that price when we all know that a new model is coming out soon.

Therefore, last weekend, I bought my kindergartner a Nook HD.

I know what many are thinking — Barnes & Noble’s tablet isn’t exactly setting the world on fire. Some rumors, in fact, suggest that the book giant will get out of the tablet business after disappointing sales. Nonetheless, I’m happy with my purchase.

One of the main reasons I selected the Nook HD, as opposed to the Kindle Fire, was Barnes & Noble’s decision last week to bring Google Play to their tablets. In doing so, Nook users can now access Google Play’s entire catalog of 700,000 apps. And with the Nook, my daughter can access her Kindle books.

I was also swayed by Barnes & Noble’s Mother’s Day Nook promotion. Through May 12, the 8GB Nook HD is just $149, while the 9-inch 16GB Nook HD+ is $179. Throw in the $10 I spent on a 16GB microSD card and my daughter received a 32GB tablet that cost me $159 plus tax. Not bad for a secondary device.

Nook With Google Play

Nook With Google Play

My initial take is that the Nook HD is a fine device for my needs. Is it as good as the iPad mini? Absolutely not, but it is well worth the price that I paid, and that is really the point. Going forward, while Barnes & Noble may soon discontinue the Nook brand, I know that the Google Play store isn’t going anywhere.

The point of this story isn’t to compare a relatively obscure tablet with the best one on the market. I admit fully that the Nook HD is no iPad, and never will be. Rather, it shows that even with the iPad mini, Apple is missing out on sales of low-cost tablets.

Short of announcing a budget iPad mini, I hope that Apple keeps the first iPad mini around once the new one launches, and gives it a price under $200. Sure this would initially cut into Apple’s margins. However, from that point forward, these folks would be making purchases in the App Store, rather than in Google Play, or Amazon’s Appstore for Android.

As it stands, Apple fans like myself are reluctantly sticking our toes into the Android ecosystem just to make our kids happy.

What say you? Do you think Apple would benefit from releasing a less expensive iPad mini, or should they keep their current price points intact?