Microsoft and Barnes & Noble join forces on Nook: what does it mean for readers?

Microsoft and Barnes & Noble caused quite a splash when they announced their new partnership yesterday. In case you missed the announcement, B&N is spinning Nook off into its own company and Microsoft is investing $300 million, which equates to about 17.6% equity. The ink on the deal is so fresh they don't have a final company name yet, just referring to it as "NewCo." You can read the full press release for all the details.

So what does this mean? In the short term it means solid support for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 7 Nook clients. Longer term, everyone is pretty much assuming we'll be seeing a Windows-based Nook. You'd think that would mean Windows 8, but Mary-Jo Foley over at ZD Net suggests it's actually going to be running Windows RT, a version of Windows designed for ARM processors that shares a lot of code with Windows 8 but is more locked down.

And what does it mean for you and I, the e-book reading public? Probably not a lot. It'll be good to know that Windows 8 will have support for the Nook platform but I'd more or less assumed that would be the case anyway. And there's no indication of any exclusivity; Microsoft isn't going to prevent Amazon from creating a Kindle app for Windows tablets, for instance.

Mostly this seems like Microsoft feeling the need to have feature-parity with Amazon, Google and Apple. All three of those companies have their own private e-book silos and Microsoft wanted one too.

Y'know what would be nice? If we consumers could just buy an e-book from whatever store we wanted and read it on any device, using the e-reader software we prefer. For that, we have to rely on book publishers, not tech companies. For instance last week Tor Books (publishers of science fiction and fantast books) announced they'd drop DRM from their e-books by July of this year (Byte published a nice piece about this news.)

Kudos to Tor, and can we get more of this, please. Let's get to where the e-book ecosystem is designed to accommodate the customer rather than propping-up the marketing bullet-point list of some software behemoth!

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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