Microsoft’s Mystery Monday Announcement Rundown

On Thursday there was confusion and intrigue in the Microsoft blogger camp (yes, there’s such a thing). Several new outlets were invited to an event which nobody knew anything about. The invitation by itself added to the mystery. Here’s how things happened:

Barnes and Noble already has a Kindle Fire competing NOOK Tablet that runs on Android. This new rumored device  cannot be running Windows 8 since Windows 8 devices aren’t coming out till October. Windows 8 will go RTM in July/August. So what will this Microsoft NOOK run? It can’t be Android. It can be Windows Embedded.

For what it’s worth, Microsoft has been able to keep everyone in the dark for the second time. The Windows Phone reset with WIndows Phone 7 Series was a tightly kept secret that was revealed only a few minutes before announcement. Tomorrow’s announcement should be equally exciting.

Microsoft and Barnes & Noble: From ‘Complicated’ to ‘In a Relationship’

Microsoft and Barnes & Noble Inc. have joined hands to announce a strategic partnership – A B&N subsidiary, provisionally referred to as Newco. After the patent dispute between the two companies last year, this surprising new venture aims to focus on e-reading and the education market while burying the patent litigation apparently.

B&N will own 82.4 percent of the new subsidiary and Microsoft will make a $300 million investment to hold a 17.6 percent stake in the company. Newco, will bring together the digital and College businesses of Barnes & Noble. B&N’s NOOK Study software is a leading platform for distribution and management of digital education materials to students and educators, and Newco would aim to extend this reach. The alliance would also bring about a NOOK application for Windows 8 bringing Barnes & Noble’s digital bookstore to hundreds of millions of Windows customers worldwide.

As the two companies move forward as allies, there are few things which aren’t answered in the press release and the commentary around it:

  • While the two companies closed on the alliance, how was the patent dispute tabled and settled? Would Barnes & Noble and/or Newco pay royalties to Microsoft on every Nook sold?
  • While Windows 8 tablets are expected to have a NOOK application now, and this might extend to the next version of Windows Phone, would there be a Nook tablet or e-reader running, maybe, Windows RT to participate in the market against Kindle and Kindle Fire?
  • While Microsoft has less than a fifth stake in the venture, would the reach of Windows platform make Nook Microsoft’s card in competition with Amazon and Apple in the e-reading market?

Barnes and Noble Working on Nook Color Successor

Barnes and Noble, the surprise entrant in the tablet space in 2010, which had a spectacular hit on its hands with the Nook Color is apparently working on a successor to the Android powered Nook Color. The Nook Color was launched as an ereader to compete with the Amazon Kindle, but since it offered powerful hardware, it was soon hacked and modified into a full blown tablet. It is currently the cheapest usable Android tablet, not counting the many cheap Chinese knockoffs. Seeing the success of the Nook Color, even Amazon has started working on a cheap Android Kindle tablet.

Today, it was revealed in an SEC filing that Barnes and Noble plans to announce a new electronic book reader on May 24. Following the news, B&N shares closed up 17% on Wednesday, which indicates how positive the expectations for B&N on the street are, should it manage to pull off another success like the Nook Color. The new Nook Color should come with even more powerful hardware and should support Android 3.0 Honeycomb. No other details have been disclosed yet. The timing is quite good, as it may mean that the Nook Color 2 will be available before Amazon’s Kindle tablet.

Watch out for more details and specifications of the Nook Color 2 on May 24.

Nook Color