Books written by Ray Sullivan

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Microsoft To Take On iPad?

Microsoft has formed a strategic alliance with Barnes & Noble by investing $300 Million in the Nook business.  This gives them less than 20 percent of the B&N business, so while it means they can't jerk the chain decisively, they can certainly give it a good yank every now and then.  It also probably means that B&N will stop looking for a buyer for the Nook business - they've been actively advertising their interest in selling it off for a while now.

Quite what this will mean for the future Nook devices remains to be seen - the current devices are Android based and that doesn't sit well with a Microsoft aligned product.  They've also been producing some pretty innovative eReaders of late - they were first to the market with a touchscreen e-ink eReader, followed by Kobo and finally by Amazon.  Recently they brought out the Glowlight Nook - a device with edge lighting around the inner face of the screen that provides the capability to read the device in the dark - a pretty intuitively simple idea that took some time in arriving and probably due to be copied extensively, but obviously at the cost of the battery life.  The only downside, to my eyes, is that once you start losing the battery life on an eReader, you may as well spend a few dollars more for a tablet.

Nonetheless, Microsoft have a method in their investment.  They may or may not wish to take a pop at Amazon and their unstoppable Kindle machine, but my guess is it's their old adversary, Apple, they really want to take on.  Under the stewardship of the late Steve Jobs, Apple grew from a failing computer company to the highest grossing technology company in the world and ten years ago that would have sounded like a confused prediction.  On the run up to the dot com bubble bursting, a prediction that had Microsoft in the position Apple is now would have seemed plausible.  OK, they're not starving and unlikely to disappear from the technology arena anytime soon, but they are clearly not considered to be top of the innovation tree right now.

And Microsoft can't have helped noticing the migration to tablet computing.  Somehow the concept that appeared to be a solution waiting for a problem has caught the public imagination hard, has created an industry coding apps, has almost made the desktop computer irrelevant.  Not quite, but it's not over yet.  So Microsoft will want in on that market.  Starting with eReaders, but looking at the tablet business, they have picked a respected partner in B&N and their Nook products.

My prediction is that Microsoft will look to increase their investment in B&N within the next six months. They've got Windows 8 being launched this year, and I guess a windows powered tablet device courtesy of B&N will be part of the package.


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