Excitement Over B&N/Microsoft Teamup Is A Bit Premature

from the what-exactly-is-the-plan-here? dept

There’s just something about when also-ran brands suddenly team up to try to “do something” that gets clueless people excited. It almost never works however. The latest is that Microsoft and Barnes & Noble have settled their (somewhat acrimonious) patent dispute (in which B&N was making the case that Microsoft violated antitrust law with its patents) in order to work together on a new spinoff company built around the Nook ebook platform. To be fair, lots of reviewers have raved about the Nook, and noted that it’s actually a better device than the Kindle. But actually getting the market to agree has been a pretty big challenge. Could Microsoft help? Perhaps, but these kinds of linkups don’t have much of a history of working well. In part, it’s because you have different parties with different priorities. In part, it’s because deals like this usually involved a lot more planning than executing. But, largely, it’s because these companies don’t really understand the market. At least, they seem to think that if they do a few superficial things up front, that will suddenly catapult them to the top. They may discover it’s a lot more difficult than that.

But, of course, that hasn’t stopped some from getting really excited about this. B&N stock shot upwards in response, though perhaps it was just because investors were happy that the company was able to “unload” the Nook. But, then, you see comments like this:

“With the new Windows rollout, there are so many things you can do with the Nook beyond e-reading,” Glickstein, who is based in New York, said today in a telephone interview. “Now that Bill Gates and Microsoft are in on the tech side, it’s absolutely compelling.”

Of course, you could do lots of things with the Nook beyond e-reading that have nothing to do with Windows. Tying the Android-based platform to anything having to do with Windows seems like a step backwards, not forward. Also, er, someone should tell this guy that Bill Gates retired four years ago. But, you know, why would anyone who’s in charge of analyzing these kinds of things be aware of little facts like that?

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Companies: barnes & noble, microsoft

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Comments on “Excitement Over B&N/Microsoft Teamup Is A Bit Premature”

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Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

Seems Like A Face-Saving Measure

To me, it looks like a way for Microsoft to drop the silly lawsuit without it looking like a backdown.

Look for this joint venture to die a quiet death over the next couple of years. Yes, the Nook is doing well, but Windows Phone/RT/8 is not. So Microsoft is bringing nothing useful to the table.

Anonymous Coward says:

It may be worth some excitement.

I find this as potentially interesting as it comes in while MS is reinventing itself and Win8 “seems” to have taken a different track than most predecessors in terms that it is moving to usability first (touch and general) with fair success. So, MS has a huge reason to push this combination and they have plenty of money to push it via subsidies and such (XBox as an example).

Additionally, by the time a Win8 Nook device comes out, it is probably likely that most books will be back on a wholesale distribution model and the agency model will be rare if not illegal by that time. MS can again throw money at this and say pay $0.10 for each book in order to get adoptions rates way up. Assuming they go with no DRM they can can advertise it as a no risk purchase which Amazon can’t do.

Ms+BN+Publishers, not likely that all of the above would happen but given MS in the mix who has more interest in pushing the OS and getting big adoption rates, it seems viable. They could blow 1 billion subsidizing devices and book costs for years and still come out ahead if, like the XBox they keep at it over several years while they fix deficiencies.

MSC (profile) says:

MS = Poison Ivy

Microsoft lately has had reverse Midas touch. It seems like everyone who gets involved with them dies a slow painful death. Of course, those who do get involved with MS are frequently unhealthy to begin with, so perhaps MS is just going all Dr. Kevorkian on them.

That being said, this B&N/Nook thing seems to be somewhere in the middle of interesting, curious, and bizarre. I can’t see what Win8/MS actually brings to the table for the Nook, but maybe Bill Gates is going to come out of retirement and surprise us all? 🙂

Of course, the cynic in me says that this partnership is just MS poisoning the well for the Nook. I hope not, but I will definitely be watching to see what happens.


Designerfx (profile) says:

it wasn't a deal for windows, it was a deal against android

like other very common and well known settlements (see samsung +microsoft), microsoft gave them a loan to get them to agree to basically not produce android products and/or focus on windows.

This isn’t about windows, this is a direct jab against android and also furthers their “everyone has settled with us and our supposedly valid patents” FUD claims.

terry says:

Someone at Barnes & Noble Should Ask

I agree with the previous statement that this is so the lawsuits can die away without Microsoft losing face. Microsoft has a history of what appear on the surface as simple mutually beneficial relationships that end up having had multiple hidden purposes and that makes me think there is more to it than that.

Barnes and Noble senior management should ask former Microsoft partners on joint ventures such as IBM, Apple and many more the question of how that worked out for them.

The thing is every answer would be nearly identical. If Microsoft is giving you a big hug its more than likely because they are positioning a knife blade to your back. They are a company with a history and a long line of repetitious pattern. If I had B&N stock I would dump it now while the price is up and before the strike.

Just calling it like I see it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Microsoft was about to have their patents that they’ve been using to extort royalties from Android manufacturers submarined. B&N was on a sure path to invalidating their vfat patent, with all the prior art that was being revealed, and that it was obvious, and trivial to do since developers were working on the same thing for other OS’s over Usenet in years prior.

Would have been great to see B&N go through this to the end, which would have allowed all the other patent victims that MS went after to get out of their royalty agreements (as there would be no valid patent to pay royalties over anymore). Then again, maybe not, MS and their NDAs, you never know what patents they exercised against any particular manufacturer. In essence, B&N got a $300million windfall (indirectly) that is probably (I’m exaggerating. I hope) what MS has made in the last 3-4 years from extorting these manufacturers.

Kinda convenient for MS. Its too bad though, now this injustice is being allowed to persevere. Its almost like B&N is REWARDING them for bringing a patent fight to their doorstep, one that B&N looked increasingly close to winning. I guess money talks.

Anonymous Coward says:

Actually, I can see why there could be some excitement. iPads are almost impossible to manage in large numbers without third-party software. (And for a school district, that software like CASPER is very expensive.) Many Android tablets are not much better.

A windows8 tablet, at almost half the price, entirely manageable with existing infrastructure, and utilizing similar apps as other tablets is an exciting idea.

Anonymous Coward says:

Half Price

The implication is that the investment by Microsoft will lead to Windows 8 on a Nook tablet. A Nook tablet is about half the price of an iPad or similar Android Tablet.

The question is going to be mostly about the apps. If there are no comparable apps on Windows 8, then the point about excitement in school districts is moot.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Half Price -- Nope

While it’s a pleasant thought that a partnership with MS will move Nooks at a lower price than existing tablets that’s just NOT Microsoft’s history. They see themselves as a premier provider of software and hardware and price accordingly. Even if they can’t reach their ideal situation which is vendor and customer lock in that’s how they see themselves.

The smartphone market has been one failure after another for MS even while Gates was keeping watch so forgive me if I’m skeptical that a MS/Nook marriage will change anything in the pad/smart phone market.

Nor do I see a lower price because, as I said, MS wants to think of itself as a premier/Tier 1 supplier of hardware and software. And, can MS sustain another division bleeding losses like the X-Box does?

mikey4001 says:

As one of the few people in the western hemisphere who actually bought a Zune HD, I feel uniquely qualified to state that any proprietary hardware/software “walled-garden” platform that Microsoft is responsible for is quite probably going to be dead right out of the gate. The posters here who ascribe ulterior motive to MS on this issue are most likely correct.

Anonymous Coward says:

Half Price -- Nope

Where in the article does it say that Win8 + Nook in the future will cost more than $599?

Even if they up the price $100, each tablet is still cheaper than a comparable iPad with the benefits of existing Windows based tools for device management.

Granted, I do not like that Microsoft will invariably raise the price, nor am I a fan of Active Directory. However, in the situation I am in now, iPads are a migraine to manage. Having a situation where the tablets are at least more manageable saves us a lot of time.

PT says:

it wasn't a deal for windows, it was a deal against android

Of course it’s a jab against Android. Microsoft didn’t have an early interest in the e-book market, but now things appear to be picking up it wants to buy its way in and take over. This is what Microsoft does. It’s not an innovator, it’s a predator. But this time it’s especially important, because while Redmond was waiting for the goose to grow fat, Amazon commissioned an Android over Ubuntu Linux tablet and called it the Kindle Fire. I have one, and also a cheap Chinese Android tablet, and they’re identical in every important respect, the main one being that they run all the same applications. In this context, Android itself is an application. You can drop through it to a Linux console and run applications in native code. Maybe not a lot of people know about this yet, or know how to use it, but this has to be what terrifies Microsoft the most. For the first time, there’s a useful Linux-based platform in the mass market, and before long it will be ubiquitous and impossible to challenge. Note, a successful lawsuit against Android will not prevent this, because Android is just an application that can be replaced with another; and if that were to happen, it would just boost the need for native Linux applications and make matters worse. If Microsoft is going to win this one, it can only do so by out-competing the Kindle Fire and its descendants. Good luck with that.

I also have a Nook. It’s a great little e-book reader. I use it for reading e-books in bright sunshine, and … er, that’s it, it doesn’t do anything else.

AzureSky (profile) says:

MS = Poison Ivy

to you and Mike Masnick: from what i hear, despite being retired is quite common to see gates around MS headquarters, hes “Retired” but he also checks in and I think he gets board so he gos in and putters around….after all, no matter what anybody says, it is his company.

Honestly, the reason MS has had so many issues is because gates retired, if you look and the gates days, MS put out mostly good products, not perfect but alot less issues on average then since balmer took over.

part of this is the fact that balmer is a business guy whos got very little skill or understanding of tech and geeks in general.

balmer has put so many MBA’s and Lawyers into the mix that the developers/designers have a hard time getting anything done.
EVERY SINGLE STEP of the process has to go past legal, and gets a market analysis, its retarded….its also why some kool projects never got past the planning stages…and why the zune was such a failure…..

In some says I feel sorry for MS and those who work there in dev/design, they are hampered at every step by people who dont really understand wtf is going on….it must be quite frustrating.

AzureSky (profile) says:

Someone at Barnes & Noble Should Ask

sorry Terry, but, in the case of IBM, ms cut the relationship because the track IBM was insisting on was doomed to fail.

look at why os/2 failed, it was NOT because it was a bad OS, it was not because of the OS price, it was because IBM INSISTED on charging outrageous prices for the development kit for it, very few developers could justify the cost for a platform that was dwarfed by windows, and man just couldnt afford to buy the kit at all….

MS has always done this better then IBM and its ilk, they gave away the dev kit or make kids stupidly cheap, they foster the software dev side because they know it will in turn bolster their OS sales.

and the Apple thing, Honestly, I dont know how anybody could feel sorry for apple…or jobs for that matter…the man who bragged about stealing good ideas, then years later said he was going to destroy android because it was a stolen product……

John Fenderson (profile) says:

It may be worth some excitement.

Win8 “seems” to have taken a different track than most predecessors in terms that it is moving to usability first (touch and general) with fair success.

I’m not certain what you mean by this (Microsoft is certainly not first with a usable touch interface), but since Win 8 is not actually released yet, it’s too soon to say whether or not it’s a success. Initial reviews, both published and informal “water cooler” are highly mixed.

I don’t think anybody can predict yet whether or not Microsoft’s big bet will pay off.

AzureSky (profile) says:

Half Price -- Nope

clearly somebody dosnt know much about how the xbox situations have been handled with both generations…..

MS isnt stupid, they have to many lawyers and MBA’s but they arent stupid in this reguard.

MS will very likely view any win8 nook as a loss leader, they will foster it along till its making them a nice profit and has gained them a good market share, then put out a new model that will again be a loss leader, just like they did with the xbox and xbox 360.

sony also has done this with th playstation line, its smart, because as time goes on, cost to make these devices drops drastically and at the same price you go from loosing money to making it.

AzureSky (profile) says:

Ask Nokia

where are the apple long term partners that have never regretted it?

where are the sony long term partners that haven’t regretted it?

i could list many other large companies who seem to screw anybody who does business with them….

and I will say, some software partners ms has im sure are happy with ms being on top, i mean only having to develop for 1 platform and support 1 platform is easier then trying to support 100,000 different distros of linux….

AzureSky (profile) says:


from what I hear from friends who work for ms, people inside knew the zune was dead long before the HD came out.

the problem was they couldnt get legal and the MBA’s to accept that trying to copy the ipod/itunes ecosystem was a stupid move….

I have a feeling that they wont make that mistake again.

also I owned a zune and the software sucked donkey balls…..

mikey4001 says:


I did not find the software to be all that bad. The reason I chose a zune over an ipod was because, after having played with both a little bit, I decided that the zune was in my opinion a better better built physical product with more intuitive software. This was obviously not an opinion shared by many other humans on the planet.

The product support from Microsoft, however, was so brutally insulting that I have actually given friends/family some of my own money to encourage the purchase of ipods and androids instead of windows phones. That’s how pissed off MS made me. If I was ever looking for a reason to buy a Kindle, this would be it.

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