Microsoft settles some patent disputes with Barnes & Noble’s Nook division by investing $300M into the company. The market cheers. Am I missing something?
Microsoft’s Nook Deal, Aiming at Amazon, Sets Up Battle in E-Books - Michael De La Merced and Julie Bosman via NYTimes.com
Microsoft agreed to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Barnes & Noble’s Nook division on Monday, giving the bookstore chain stronger footing in the hotly contested electronic book market and creating an alliance that could intensify the fight over the future of digital reading.
The deal, which gives Microsoft a 17.6 percent stake, values the Nook unit at $1.7 billion — roughly double Barnes & Noble’s entire market value as of last Friday — and bolsters the bookseller’s efforts to make its digital business the linchpin of its future growth.
The announcement was the latest surprise in an unpredictable and rapidly shifting e-book market, which is crowded with technology giants trying to chip away at Amazon.com’s dominance. Amazon once had close to 90 percent of the e-book market, but since then, a handful of players, including Apple, Google and now Microsoft, have edged in.
So, B & N is a bookseller, with hundreds of stores. Remember when Borders went bankrupt? And Tower Records? The days of blazing a new trail in retail by undifferentiated sales are done.
Stowe Boyd via stoweboyd.com
Successful retail in the US is falling into two categories: companies selling their own products, like Apple, and focused specialty providers, like Trader Joe’s and Uniqlo. Otherwise: a wasteland. And soon we will be dismantling all the big box stores.
So, this is a bail out. B & N needs big cash to compete against Kindle, because Amazon is underpricing the device to hold onto the market in the face of growing market penetration of iPad and iPhone as better mobile reading devices. Microsoft, who completely missed the ereader market and who is fighting Apple and Google in the smart device marketplace, hope that a strategic partnership with B & N around the Nook can help, but how?
Unmentioned is the idea that some soon-to-market version of the Nook will be a Windows 8 device, instead of running Nook’s proprietary OS. And a spin-out of the Nook division into a new company, called Nook, with even more cash from Microsoft. Otherwise the whole thing makes no sense.