Microsoft on Monday declined to say whether Barnes and Noble’s Nookapp for Metro will be embedded into Windows 8 or Windows RT. Earlier in the day, Microsoft announced it was investing $300 million to acquire a 17.6% stake in a new Barnes & Noble subsidiarythat will include the bookseller’s digital Nook and Collegebusiness. Microsoft also guaranteed Barnes & Noble additionalpayments of $305 million over the next five years. As part of the deal, Barnes & Noble will develop a Metro appfor the Nook to run on Windows 8 and Windows RT. What Microsoft didn’t say was whether the app would be bundled withWindows 8 or Windows RT, or would be offered — along with scoresof other third-party apps — as an optional download from theWindows Store.
“One of the first benefits for customers will be a Nook applicationfor Windows 8,” the companies said in a statement. In a conference call with reporters and Wall Street analystsearlier Monday, neither of the two executives representing thefirms — William Lynch, CEO of Barnes & Noble, and Andy Lees,president at Microsoft — went further than that statement whentalking about the Nook app and Windows. If Microsoft did bundle the Nook app, the move would besignificant: Adding the Nook to the roster of Microsoft-made Metroapps, such as Mail, Photos and Calendar, would give thejointly-owned company an advantage over rivals like Amazon on anynew Windows 8 or Windows RT tablet, desktop, notebook or ultrabook. That advantage could pay dividends to Microsoft, since NewCo — thetemporary name for the subsidiary — will split revenue generatedby the Windows 8 Nook app between Barnes & Noble and Microsoft.
In a follow-up telephone call with Computerworld Monday, aMicrosoft spokesman declined to comment on how the Nook app with bedistributed. Instead, he used the same phrase that Lynch and Leesapplied in the conference call to parry several questions. “We arenot announcing any other details of our roadmap,” the spokesmansaid. That leaves everyone guessing which of two paths Microsoft willtake. Aluminium Composite Signs
If it decides not to integrate the Nook app with Windows 8 andWindows RT, Microsoft would be following in rival Apple’sfootsteps. Apple does not include its iBooks bookselling app withiOS for the iPhone or iPad. Users can, of course, install the freeapp from Apple’s App Store. There is no version of iBooks for OS X,Apple’s desktop operating system. The alternative would be to mimic Internet Explorer’s place withinWindows by including the Nook app with the new operating systems,making the e-bookstore app the platforms’ default outlet fordigital books, magazines and newspapers. China Aluminium Coils
Microsoft continues to package IE with Windows, something that hasgotten it into hot water with antitrust regulators. In the 1990s,Microsoft faced off against the U.S. government in a landmark case,which initially revolved around IE’s integration. More than adecade later, European Union officials forced Microsoft to give EU citizens a way to choose a different browser. China Extruded Aluminum Profile
Amazon has already created a Metro Kindle app for Windows 8 andWindows RT. Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, believesthat Microsoft will not bundle the Nook app with Windows 8 orWindows RT, but not because of antitrust fears. “The toughest thingfacing Windows 8 [and Windows RT] is a lack of apps,” said Cherry.”They’re betting that people will write Metro [apps]…andMicrosoft will want to present a level playing field.” Not for customers, perhaps, but certainly for developers. Cherry argued that by embedding the Nook app in Windows 8 andWindows RT, Microsoft would send the wrong message to developers,that the playing field is, in fact, not level. Cherry admitted to buying digital books from a trio of outlets –Amazon’s Kindle store, Apple’s iBooks store and the one operated bythe Canadian company Kobo — and often shopped for the best priceon each.
“It’s important that Windows 8 have all the [e-bookstores] from the beginning,” said Cherry, arguing that becausee-reading is one of the prime uses of tablets, anything else wouldbe seen as a weakness when Microsoft is playing catch-up withAmazon and Apple. Amazon and Kobo each have already created a Metro app for Windows 8and Windows RT; the programs are currently available in the beta ofthe Windows Store. There’s nothing preventing them from pullingout, however, if they saw that the Nook was pre-loaded in Windows 8and Windows RT. The next major milestone for Windows 8, dubbed Windows 8 ReleasePreview, may answer questions about the Nook app’s place in theecosystem. The Release Preview will debut the first week of June.
Barnes & Noble’s filing yesterday with the U.S. Securities andExchange Commission (SEC) revealed a few more tidbits about theWindows 8 angle to the deal. Although in one section of the filing,Barnes & Noble said NewCo would develop “a Windows 8application for e-reading and digital content purchases,” elsewherethe singular “application” morphed to the plural. “NewCo will develop certain applications [emphasis added] forWindows 8 for purchasing and consumption of digital readingcontent,” the Form 8-K stated. The filing also hinted at other NewCo projects.
“NewCo andMicrosoft would share in the revenues…from digital contentpurchased from NewCo…through certain Microsoft products andservices that may be developed in the future and are designed tointeract with the NewCo online bookstore,” the submission said. Yesterday, other analysts speculated on the chance that the jointventure will lead to Nook tablets and e-readers powered by Windows or Windows RT . Like the Kindle Fire, the Nook Tablet runs a customized versionof Google’s Android operating system. Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsersand general technology breaking news for Computerworld. FollowGregg on Twitter at @gkeizer , on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg’s RSS feed.
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