Recently Barnes and Noble announced they were buying back Microsoft’s stake in their Nook eBook service ending the relationship between the bookseller and software maker. The deal, struck in, saw Microsoft invest over 300 million dollars in Nook media. While Nook saw a cash infusion it is unclear what, if anything, Microsoft gained for its investment beyond the app for Windows tablets. The cessation of the deal leaves the question of what Microsoft will do to feel the gap.
(Now to our regular scheduled blog already in progress)
Well no Windows Nook (WOOK) or us now, not that there was ever a chance of one. The Barnes and Noble deal was always a weird one. It came on the heels of a potential legal fight between Barnes and Microsoft over patents. Outside of Nook app for Windows the deal did not produce what many hoped for; an easy way to get books, magazines, and comics on Windows. While Windows has Kobo, Blio, Madefire, and Amazon they are less featured and honestly basic as hell. Amazon has an especially sorry app it has let languish. The Nook app was supposed to be Windows own iBooks or Play books; a native bookstore. Something available on phones, PCs, and tablets.
Boy were we wrong.
The proposed phone version of Nook was scrapped and that was after Barnes and Noble announced it was ceasing development of the Windows app. Then Barnes and Noble announced the next Nook, which was a rebranded Samsung tablet running the Nook app (did I mention it was also an Android tablet). Now whatever Microsoft had with the last of big box booksellers is over. Nook media is being spun out into its own company fulfilling the hopes o investors. But what of Redmond?
Well it appears nothing.
Last year there were rumors of readers coming from the Xbox and Office teams. In fact snooping by the Verge and Mary Jo Foley uncovered a presentation for the Office reader (which was about documents, periodicals and the like) and a video covering the, at the time, Xbox Music, Video, and Reading team. That video showed a brief snippet of the Reader that also looks a like the proposed Windows 10 store.
Well now according to Ms. Foley both projects have been scrapped. I find it a bit ironic that in the push to have productivity as a defining edge Microsoft is overlooking reading. While having a bookstore is not something that is core to Microsoft’s largest customer base (Enterprise) it is considered a general requirement for mobile platforms. And in the case of Windows where the app selection is weak a decent place to buy and read stuff is sort of important. I can understand why the Office and Xbox teams scrapped their readers; it wasn’t core to their mission. Though I think reading various material is something that Office SHOULD be thinking about.
Right now Microsoft is in the midst of changing up its consumption services. A new unified store planed for Microsoft’s next OS release will see music, movies, and videos added to the Windows store. The setup would also make sense for magazines and books. Microsoft already has a Reader application for Windows 8. This situation is one I’ll be watching.