Microsoft, Barnes & Noble partner up

In a few short months, or maybe a little longer, Windows 8 will arrive aboard a whole fleet of new PCs and tablets. Will there be e-book readers, too? In light of Microsoft's latest business venture, one certainly has to wonder. The software giant says it's entered a "strategic partnership" with Barnes & Noble, as part of which it will sink $300 million into the bookseller's new subsidiary (and receive a 17.6% equity stake).

The subsidiary, which is temporarily dubbed Newco, will encompass Barnes & Noble's "digital and College businesses." It will allow the two companies to "collaborate and reach a broader set of customers" and "accelerate the transition to e-reading."

That may all sound a little vague, but the deal is rife with possibilities. For instance, one of the first fruits of the partnership will be a Nook app for Windows 8. Also, Barnes & Noble's Nook Study e-textbook platform will fall under the Newco umbrella. Apple made its grand entrance in the e-textbook publishing world with iBooks Author this January, and by the looks of it, Microsoft and Barnes & Noble plan to team up on the defense.

As for actual Windows 8-based e-book readers, well, nothing's been announced... yet. The guys at SlashGear dialed in to the announcement conference call, and they say that, according to Windows Phone chief Andy Lees, Microsoft "has not done a teardown on the NOOK devices to see where they are in terms of Windows 8 requirements." Of course, seeing as Windows 8 will be available for ARM tablets, e-readers probably aren't such a stretch.

I can't say I'm all that excited about the prospect of seeing Windows 8 on an e-book reader, though. The whole point of e-readers is to get out of the way—that means small, light devices with low prices and preposterously long battery run times. Shoehorning a full-featured OS like Windows 8 onto a device like that might end up spoiling the formula. Even if it can be done, an e-ink display and an ultra-slow ARM platform would seriously compromise the Windows 8 experience.

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