Fascinating development in the world of e-Readers, currently dominated by Amazon and Apple, with Google books a distant third.

Microsoft has just put everyone else on notice that they want in, they want to be a major player. They obviously could not offer anything to Apple or Amazon to make it worth their while to joint hem, but Barnes & Noble — well, they needed some help, cash and marketing muscle. They got all three from Mister Softee.



Google books

Microsoft/Barnes & Noble Nook

Who will be the eReader winner int his group?

What say ye?

Category: Technology

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

51 Responses to “OPEN THREAD Microsoft Buys Its Way into e-Reader”

  1. PeterR says:

    BN’s NOOK has been the best eReader for years! Color, wide range of available books, magazines, etc. in full color, etc..

    Sad IMO that Mr. Riggio and BN would seek, and perhaps accept, Mr. Softee’s Midas touch of gold.

    Does anyone remember or appreciate the parable of Midas?

    “Be careful what you wish for, for you may surely get it.”


  2. patfla says:

    I think MSFT gave BKS an offer they couldn’t refuse.

  3. 873450 says:

    If you can’t beat them, own them or eat them.

  4. Scott Bell says:

    Smart. Really lame. Really lazy. But smart. And, it could work.

  5. constantnormal says:

    I see a repeat of Microsoft’s entry into the video game business, following their traditional battle plan …

    1) look for industries that are beyond the startup phase, and use their ginormous bankroll to buy a seat at the table, blithely presuming that they “have what it takes” to be competitive in this new arena.
    2) they will flush INCREDIBLE sums down the toilet for many years, and eventually learn enough to be able to compete.

    This has been a winning formula in industries where they actually possessed a modicum of competence heading into them, or industries where they entered as the biggest whale in the ocean. Neither was the case in the video game adventure, and neither is the case now.

    Apple is probably blinking rapidly at their Good Fortune … first, Google wastes a ton of money on Motorola, and now Microsoft is going to blow billions sending customers to Amazon and itself.

    B&N should milk this for all that they can, possibly selling their entire company to Mr Softee for an outrageous price, considering that they are just about kaput as things stand.

    Yessirree, INNOVATION, that’s what Mr Softee is all about … I think this will be the crowning achievement in Steve Balmer’s career, the one that finally pushes him out the door into retirement … only about 20 years late.

  6. DSS10 says:

    This is the beginning of a Duopoly much like apple and google in phones……

  7. InterestedObserver says:

    Let’s see…, I own/use all three.

    For reading/ebook – the Kindle hands down. Would like color, and maybe a little larger form factor or a drop in price for the Kindle DX, but I really need/want the matte screen for reading. The kindle store works because of zero friction making a purchase.

    For video/casual surf/casual slow gaming – iPad. I can see this replacing laptops and desktops for many. The app store decreases buying friction to zero (same as Kindle store). Would love the option of a glare free screen, this would really help as a reading device.

    The Nook – hasn’t taken. Picked up as a route to a cheap Android tablet. OK hardware, but not the attention to detail of either the Kindle or iPad. Meh…

    If I could only have one – an iPad, but I’d be giving up my Kindle kicking and screaming. They really are two distinct niches with the iPad overlapping the Kindle.

    Personally, I think Kindle will win in the pure ebook space.

  8. albnyc says:

    Grammar alert. It is “its” not “it’s.” Oh the horror.

  9. Bob A says:

    hopefully B&N fares better with Microsoft’s “help” than Nokia has. but I doubt it.

  10. jaymaster says:

    I own Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft, so my bases are covered.

    I’d bet on Amazon in the e-book field (not necessarily the e-reader field, but probably there as well).

    They understand the book industry, and are currently running rings around Apple, which isn’t easy to do.

    As far as the readers themselves, the big question is, will the market move into specialized, optimized devices, or will there be “one device to rule them all”. I’m betting on segmentation/specialization, but it’s too early to know.

  11. Seems to me that the one thing that can spell the doom of product/company is for Microsoft to take a stake in it.

    This is of course the opposite to how things were in the past when Microsoft ruled.

    But now – who in their right mind sides with Microsoft in a world that is moving so rapidly to Unix (Linux: Android, iOS, all things Google, Facebook, Amazon etc etc)

    Amazing how blind people are – even supposedly the bright and informed ones like CEOs



  12. Mike in Nola says:

    @Bab A:
    Nokia was in a rapd downward spiral as Elop realized. The switch to Windows Phone may not work, but otherwise they would have become another RIM which may not last out the year as a major player. The jump to Windows phone was the only choice. It may not work, but is likely to as they still have ton of cash to get them over the transition and the new Lumia 900 is getting almost universally good reviews. Both AT&T and VZW will push Nokia and other Windows Phones to reduce the amount they are having to pay AAPL while at the same time not having to put up with Google’s scattered mess of a phone operating system with few updates requiring lots of support costs. AT&T has started, VZW this fall.

    The deal with the Nook was probably part legal. B&N is the only patent defendant to go all the way in a lawsuit from MSFT. Each side had a lot to loose in a trial: MSFT might have lost a big club it has wielded effectively against other. B&N mght have lost part of its buisness. Instead, smart lawyers/businessmen made a settlement that could help both. MSFT gets royalties and keeps it’s patent club. B&N gets a very powerful partner. MSFT may also have a specialized Ereader table for Windows 8.
    More details here:

  13. Mike in Nola says:

    @peak oil: Yeah, I see how MSFT’s stake and cooperative relationship with Facebook has really killed Facebook :)

    And is this year another of the last dozen when Linux/Unix takes over the desktop? :)

  14. gloppie says:

    MSFT can buy Companies left and right all day long, they are still doomed because of the Open source collaborative model eating them alive.
    This is not about competing anymore, but about cooperating, and I hope soon capitalism will be about cooperating too. The paradigm shift of the digital age is juuust starting. We have had affordable consumer computers for what now, 15-20 years? A blink of the eye compared to any other industry…..just wait until we compute with quantum crystals or whatever comes next, and the whole Library of Congress fits on a corn flake, for free, in Kellogs Cereal boxes.
    “Enriched, now with knowledge !!”
    Microsoft (and most other IT behemoths) is clueless.

  15. Mike in Nola says:

    @peak oil:

    Forgot to mention that MSFT saved Apple’s ass by making an investment in it.

  16. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Too soon to say what will happen, but:
    — Nook has been a terrific value, and the pricing may make it attractive for the education market, which is almost certainly where MS is aiming. The future of eTextbooks hasn’t been tapped. There was no way MS was going to catch up on its own; this seems a potentially shrewd move, although there are still a lot of variables.

    — Much depends on the software used to develop the MS-B&N eBooks; will it be as easy to develop and cool as iBooks?

    — It looks like MS is aiming for some kind of tie-in with what Apple already offers (in their iTunesU), but my guess is that MS will try to package online lectures with eBooks: users can watch the lecture videos and reference the eBooks all on one handy device. It could work – if the execution is good enough. This ought to place more premium on quality of content, and on the ability of a publisher to package well.

    — It looks like B&N now gets some entree to non-US markets, plus a shot at getting some more developer resources, so … depending on whose getting hired, this is a potential coup, tech-wise.

    — the Education market requires a fair amount of licensing, use rights, and other data-driven features that MS may want built into Nook. (In other words, will there be a cheaper price for a book that vaporizes from the Nook drive after 2 weeks? What will be the note-taking features — because those add data to an existing eBook file, so it raises some technical considerations they’ll need to iron out.

    — this is further confirmation that Apple’s iBook is the front wave of a new era of digitization of textbooks, although the rapid release of Kindle Fire already suggested that was the case.

    It seems very smart of B&N to spin this off. Who knows what ‘bookstores’ will look like in 4 years? They may become gathering places where people can play board games, have coffee, buy art supplies, and the occasional bound volume. Bookstores will probably have to offer more services (my local, excellent bookstore now has 4 Book Clubs and more on the horizon, so this may be a pattern.)

    It’s hard to say quite this will mean, but I think people will look back on this as some kind of milestone; this feels like a very big deal. Those blinded by animosity toward MS (and I tend to fall in that group all too often) are not seeing clearly what this signifies; this isn’t about MS, per se. It’s very much about education, about digitization, about a new kind of opportunity for authors, illustrators, and some coders.
    In other words, more opportunities for content providers.

    It’s not yet clear what this could mean for publishers.

  17. Mike in H-Town,

    you forgot to remind ol’ “Peak Oil” of the MSFT–NOK tie-up..and, its resultant Product (stream)…

  18. Aaron says:

    I think Amazon is the winner in the e-Reader space with Apple a close second. Both companies have scale in e-publishing titles while they also control how the content is delivered with the Kindle and iPad, respectively. I can’t see how Google Books is included in this group since I don’t see Google having either the same scale or marketing dollars that both Amazon and Apple have. If I were running Google, they’d be out of the book business. Microsoft’s investment in B&N’s Nook tablet is straight from their investment playbook of if-we-can’t-make-it-we’ll-buy-it-from-someone-else. Nook’s a distant third to Apple & Amazon, so, don’t look for Microsoft to make a leapfrog over either Amazon or Apple in the e-reader business. Just my opinion, and I could be wrong.

  19. ssc says:

    Did not see it coming and not sure what the game plan really is, but then again, I said exactly the same thing when MS put a large chunk of change in Jobs’ hands, so what do I know. Now that I’ve firmly established my total ignorance in the matter at hand, here’s my rant:

    Saying Amazon ranked number one and Apple number two in the eBook space is like saying (before the breakup) Ma Bell was the number one US carrier and the number two carrier in the US is…does anybody really care???

    Brought my first generation Nook a couple years ago ($250 with a $50 kickback), a few months ago, the shopping function stop working, a few calls to tech support, they have no idea. Kind of strange, as the biggest deal on this stuff is the lure of impulse book buying, but whatever, otherwise, it was a good device. At the same time, the Kindle Touch is out, for $79, a better deal than spinning my wheel with B&N support, and for $199, I brought a Fire just for kicks. The Touch is quite a nice eReader (I have not looked at the Nook equivalent, may be they are even better). For $199, the Fire is an OK toy.

    Now that the publisher “cartel” has pretty much broken up (3 out of 5 settled), whatever the result of the lawsuit is, it’s pretty irrelevant and I just do not see anybody competing with Amazon. If I am an Apple share holder, which I am not, I don’t think I want to see Apple get into a low margin food fight. $79 buys you a pretty darn good eReader, I don’t think Apple can get into that business, as for iPad, as somebody that have both already pointed out, not the same thing and for people like myself, and there seems to be a lot of us, we really don’t NEED a smart pad, but for $199, we will get a Fire for kicks, but we are certainly not spending $499 (I know, I know, iPad is so much better, but I am talking toys).

  20. ali says:

    Nook has a pretty good sort of open platform. Compared to Kindle Fire, Nook Color has better hardware and ease of use. It is a pretty good design overall, plus has the backup of many B/N store personal with much-like Apple care. It’s transformation to Windows 8 will give a head start for many Windows OS developer teams.

    We live in a more app world as opposed to engine world. Nook has better applications to do stuff than Kindle. Think of sharing e-books, lending, reading kids book out-loud etc. These are all built-in current Nook software.
    Kindle Fire on the other hand is designed for the purpose of shopping in the virtual amazon-land.

    This is also a good opportunity for Bing. The mobile search race is heating up day by day and Nook/MSFT partnership will be a good thing to default search engine, most likely Bing with the new release. MSFT will have an improved market share compared to Google.

    If MSFT ports some office apps to Nook with a intuitive interface, and goes beyond of interactive reading experience along with sharing, posting and messaging, it will have a good platform to built on. The alternative was to invest in Blackberry’s which have no future, or partner with HP on Palm which is a complete unknown.

    They did the right thing this time. Good for BKS too, this lifeline was very much needed. As for the future, they bought themselves some chance to be relevant. iPad too will have a threshold to climb. It is still an open race.

  21. Tulips says:

    Wow, didn’t see that one coming.

    I’m not as into this space as many others here seem to be — heck, my kids and I still prefer old fashioned paper books. We enjoy visiting the brick and mortar bookstores and perusing books; you just cannot get the same experience perusing e-books online.

    So long as B&N continue to attract people like us for leisurely browsing and such, then B&N/MSFT could have an interesting advantage over Amazon and Apple. Like most things, only time (and execution) will tell.

  22. Mike in Nola says:

    Haven’t gotten an ereader yet. As can be seen by all my typos, the eyes aren’t what they were and would really like a Kindle DX, except reviews aren’t good. From what I’ve seen, it does look like Amazon is on top on ereaders and content. I would actually subscribe to newspapers using the Kindle app on my laptop, but it won’t let me since I don’t have a Kindle device regstered. I don’t know what I’m waiting for, I guess a big tablet down the road.

    As to competition with Amazon, someone noted noted that MSFT stores had carried the Kindle as they seemed to have a good relationship with Amazon and Amazon had always quickly written apps for MSFT products, including Windows Phone. Kindles have recently been taken out of the stores indicating they are now a competitor.

    They also makes a note that the deal may be looking towards competing against Apple in the textbook market, which I think is pretty lucrative. They certainly wouldn’t have much problem undercutting Apple prices on hardware :) Since publishers don’t like Amazon’s low margins, the BN/MSFT entity may be someplace they can go..

    On the hardware side, Mary Jo Foley noted a statement from the B&N side that the Nook already runs on a TI arm chip at 1GHZ which should be plenty fast for the ARM verson of Windows 8 (now called WinRT for some strange reason). So, we could see a cheap Windows 8 ereader/tablet coming which may have been the whole point of the deal from MSFT’s viewpoint.

  23. Oral Hazard says:

    It’s not eBooks; it’s eBooks found by using Bing surfed on IE on whatever device you’re using. MSFT needs a platform to compete with the iPad/iPhone. I use iBooks on my phone.

    Remember how you felt left out when all the cool employers handed out Blackberry’s? Now I look at the poor folks whose employers hand out Blackberry’s with genuine pity. It’s all about the touchscreen and intuitive interface now, and Apple does that better than anybody.

    It will be interesting to see what the hook will be to get market share for the MSFT-B&N partnership. Who out there is using IE to browse?

  24. Greg0658 says:

    from memory – library friends meeting .. $1500 (our population) a year to get into program includes $1000 into book purchases .. a book by agreements only has so many allowed into sys* .. some titles vaporize too .. initial cost is not that much reduced as expected ie: E vs Paper .. there was discussion on which model IF to get 1 or 2 – no consensus .. program is gonna happen later this summer
    * not sure what the system is in size – area state country world

  25. Mike in Nola says:

    According to Net Applications over 50% of users still use IE.

  26. Greg0658 says:

    ps – since my Net10 won’t offer the wifi android in the 10cents 300min 60day plan .. there are times watching tv in couch potato mode reading TBP that aPad* would be cool .. but give up a separate real touch keyboard NEVER
    * not to small, not to big, just right – like that Goldilocks story

  27. louis says:

    From my cold dead hands will they pry my books away.

  28. whatever says:

    Anyone using corporate intranet uses IE. Some crap about “our scripts only work on IE”. Also, if you want to look at your paystubs online, its IE. Stupid stuff like that.

  29. Oral Hazard says:

    @Mike in Nola:

    Does that source count smartphone users as “users”?

  30. Oral Hazard says:


    A lot of people, especially younger ones, use smartphones at work to text, surf NSFW/personal/social media. So it’s not either/or; it’s using one platform for what I’m supposed to be doing at work and the other platform to buy off Amazon and do naughty browsing.

  31. RecencyEffect says:

    @Oral Hazard
    Phones account for less than 5% of page views, doesn’t matter what smart phone browsing looks like, currently.

    Back on topic, when I was looking to buy an ereader it was a choice between the two players dealing e-ink. Nook and Kindle. The iPad only enters the equation if you want a more general purpose device. If you bought an iPad to just read books – you paid too much, for an inferior experience. If you want something with a browser you don’t buy a Kindle.

    I think the Nook sits somewhere between the pure ereader and the general consumption device that is the iPad. There is a play to be made using price, so who knows…

  32. alnval says:

    Amazon Kindle wins hands down. Microsoft never has understood the man (customer) machine interface. No reason to believe it will do any better with Nook. Nook will survive only because Microsoft can’t afford another Zune.

  33. bocon007 says:

    All e-readers make annotating a book virtually impossible, not a big issue for everyone, but a big deal to me. Every book I have annotated has become an important part of myself in some way.

    Soon, the word “reading” will come to mean something people do that involves checking e-mail, browsing aps, paying bills, and watching episodes of CSI, etc.

    Hey, Man. What you doin?

    Oh, just reading.

  34. ConscienceofaConservative says:

    I just don’t know what Microsoft is or wants to be. What’s the strategy?

  35. scottinnj says:

    I’ve owned a Kindle Touch, a Kindle FIre and an IPad 3.

    I’d echo that the ereader device is different than a tablet. The glare free screen and non-issue with the battery life make the kindle a much better experience. But it also syncs very well for the occasional read on the iPad.

    However I must say that see no advantage whatsoever for the Fire vs either of the devices. You get the worst – glare and battery – with no benefit – Steve Jobs was right the 10 inch vs 7 inch screen does matter. Plus the app store is smooth.

    In short I’m happy with IPad and Kindle Touch. IF anything I’m debating why I need a full laptop especially if I can back up iPad to some type of external hard drive.

  36. Oral Hazard says:


    As more of us gravitate to smartphones, we’re relying on them for more of our Web surfing; 25 percent of Americans say they’re now doing most of their Internet browsing on their phones instead of a computer, according to a new report from the Pew Internet Project.


    Smartphone adoption and usage, July 11, 2011, Pew

    But I guess you get to make up your own supporting data. And how is discussing platform and interface not relevant to an ebook discussion? Douche.

  37. scottinnj says:

    also should mention one other feature of amazon is their owners library. if you have a Kindle and Amazon Prime you can borrow one free book a month. At say$6 a book that is worth $72 year, basically pays the Amazon prime membership. now the selection isnt great but will improve over time. There is much more to the Amazon ecosystem than just the Kindle. There is alot more to the apple ecosystem than the ipad. But what else is there to theNook world?

  38. Mike in Nola says:

    @Conscience: It wants to be the biggerst boppa out there, just like “the old days.” :)

    Despite the skepticism, I think it is just doing what Taleb advises in one of his books, take enough chances and you get some white swans.

    Take the Facebook investment. They wound up with stock worth a nice piece of change and a relationship that drives users to Bing as well as having deep Facebook integration on Windows Phone. Doesn’t do anything for me, but can see it as a big selling point for those who like that sort of things AND if MSFT ever gets a clue about marketing. See, e.g.

  39. Mike in Nola says:

    @Oral: Here’s some recent real stats, both on conventional browser share and mobile browsers, plus the split between mobile and conventional. Looks like mobile is still only a little over 7% of the browsing share.


  40. denim says:

    I see at product fit looking at http://www.microsoftstore.com/store/msstore/home
    One can see how they are already partnering with hardware vendors on the website. The downside is that the Microsoft Zune did not displace iPod and it seems withering. But music is not in the same brain lobes as books, so maybe the Nook, coupled with B&N’s decades of serving book lovers can make a success. I am a hold out with a PC simulating a Kindle using Amazon’s free app. I expect Microsoft and B&N to do the same. The money is in the bookware.

  41. ZackAttack says:

    Based on their history, my intial thought is – A Microsoft investment? Run fast, run far.

  42. Low Budget Dave says:

    This is how I imagine the meeting at MSFT:

    “Wow, look how mature this market is already. It is only a few years old, and already more people own e-readers than read books!”

    “Seems like a real money pit. Let’s buy in!”

    “OK, we can always cover the losses by jacking up the price of the next 42 Excel upgrades.”

    (In my mind, I picture them talking just like that. Exclamation points and everything.)

  43. Dr. Goose says:

    Up in Redmond, the wonderful news is
    That the e-reader Microsoft chooses
    Has growth of a type
    That pays more than Skype,
    Or that search engine nobody uses.

  44. Mike in Nola says:

    Amazing that such an incompetent company manages to make so much money. Wish I was that stupid.

  45. ssc says:

    1. On the Nook, the hype is eBooks can be loaned out, but in reality, the choices of books that can be loaned is limited. We brought a first generation book, happy with it and brought my daughter one, as both my wife and daughter are avid readers. Thought we will save a bundle by sharing books, NOT, few of the books they read can be shared, so we worked around by just swapping Nook..
    2. On the Kindle Touch, one of the hypes was the ability to “borrow” books (if you are Amazon Prime), and there are supposedly tens of thousands of titles that can be borrowed, the catch is you can only borrow one a month, ain’t like the library of old for sure.
    3. On the Fire, last I read, it’s selling like hot cake, and Amazon had some “refurbished” ones a little while back (forgot how much $$) and were sold out within an hour. I think the last time I turned mine on was a month ago. I was really impressed with the video streaming (movies and TV), but everything else REALLY sucked, including email, and shopping at Amazon. I don’t get it..

  46. Oral Hazard says:

    @Mike: Thank you.

    It would be neat to see how that breaks down by country and something more fine grained than page views. For example, we know that there are 500 million internet users in China and 245 million in the US, 120 million in India.

    If a quarter of Americans are doing most browsing by smartphone, and a certain % of page views are done by bot servers, I think you get into a quantity vs quality issue.

  47. jib10 says:

    MS has a long history of getting in and out of things very quickly. I worked with MS products and people for over 20 years and have attended all kinds of developer conferences for products that no longer exist. Some were no bigger than 10 people in a conf room in Redmond, others filled convention centers and included tours of the Queen Mary (Blackbird?….anyone remember Blackbird? …anyone…). There is a plaza on the Redmond campus where every product ship use to get a plaque embedded in the bricks (back when software came in a box). You should walk it some time. Amazing all the stuff MS use to do and no longer does. Each and every one of these products was a big deal to someone, quite of few were heralded as industry game changers.

    Which is to say this could be a big deal but the odds are, it is nothing but another plaque on the plaza that people will look at in 10 years and say ‘Oh I forgot MS did that!’

    The big issue with ebooks is the end of DRM. It will be the big story in epublishing over the next 18 months and it breaks vendor lock-in to the devices. Now theoretically that could mean an opening for MS but historically MS has not competed well in open environments. They are the Kings of vendor lock-in. Still, they will get their chance and who knows, maybe this is one that sticks.

  48. Bob A says:

    @ Mike in Nola
    Nokia hardware with android could have made Nokia a contender with Samsung.
    Windows phone is a niche product. They’re paying Nokia to use and and giving
    away phones to get people to use it. That model is not sustainable and doomed.
    Nokia’s board shoot fire Elop and adopt android.

  49. Chad says:

    Some have suggested this is just like when Microsoft entered the video game business. I don’t find the parallels that strong. Basically, Microsoft’s only competition in the video game industry was Sony, who has proven over the last 3 decades they are terrible at competing when the competition is at least average. Hell, they barely beat Sega and Sega couldn’t have been managed worse. Yes, there is Nintendo, but they don’t have staying power and that is showing already.

    However, neither Amazon or Apple is anywhere close to being as poorly run as Sony. Just ask Microsoft about their Zune as competition for the iPod.

    Will this Nook foray turn out better than the their Zune foray? Probably, because they have a fairly strong partner in terms of brand recognition. Will they be able to carve market share away from Amazon or Apple? Unlikely.

  50. dream-king says:

    The Nook Simple Touch is a superior piece of hardware to its Amazon counterpart. It’s better designed, better battery life, storage can be reliably expanded, and is more open-source/open-format friendly. The new built-in LED nighttime reading light is a big win.

    The Kindle Fire is a superior platform for purchasing Amazon media than the B&N counterpart.

    Amazon is in the better position to leverage its market share.

    I’m not sure Microsoft’s move to invest 300 million in B&N is a serious move with any intent other than to keep buying time in this game. They continue to sit on cash and not know what to do with it, and seem to continue to be willing to spend large sums of this cash supply for short-/medium-term ends. Anyone else remember when MS invested in Apple?

  51. Dow says:

    Smart move on Microsoft’s part.