Microsoft is poised to offer $1bn for e-book publisher Nook Media, which was spun out from bookshop biz Barnes and Noble, it is believed.
Internal company documents suggest Nook will abandon its line of Android-powered e-reader tablets to focus on delivering electronic content across various platforms. And that would include Windows 8 platforms belonging to Microsoft. Crucially, it would enable Redmond to flog books alongside everything else it sells.
Microsoft invested $300m in Nook Media last year, following the resolution of the patent dispute between the Windows giant and the bookshop chain, which was really about B&N's use of the Google Android operating system in its e-readers.
Redmond has also spent $180m to ensure the Nook platform is well supported on its various incarnations of Windows 8 - from the desktop to smartphones - but Barnes & Noble has been clear that it wants out of the business which will fit well into Microsoft's portfolio.
Microsoft has tried selling electronic books before. Windows Reader was only killed off last August, although Redmond stopped selling content a year earlier and the platform had been dead in the water since Amazon swallowed the market with its Kindle hardware.
Windows Reader worked well enough, given the technical limitations of the time, but the Kindle's e-ink screen was obviously superior. Even now e-ink is preferred by most readers, although the capabilities of LCD displays often outweighs that superiority. Nook supports and sells both e-ink and LCD devices, so customers can choose.
But buying up all of Nook Media, as documents obtained by TechCrunch suggest, isn't really about offering customers a choice: it's designed to ensure they don't need to wander too far from the fold. These days the popular cloud-powered providers compete to offer the whole range of services so punters never have to leave their warm embrace, whether they want music or books or apps. If your cloud lacks a bookstore your customers will be exposed to the competition when buying books, and that’s not acceptable.
Microsoft's cloud lacks a bookshop, though it has a surprising quantity of apps offering books with a flagrant disregard for copyright law - Hunger Games, Lord of the Rings, Twilight, all for free! - just as they proliferated in the iTunes app store before the launch of iBooks. Microsoft needs an iBooks equivalent, and acquiring Nook would be an easy way to achieve that. ®