Barnes & Noble announced two new Google Android-based Nook tablets on Wednesday without much mention of its new business partner Microsoft, a curious omission given the companies’ big announcement five months earlier that they’d be teaming up on a new company, “Newco,” that would include the entire Nook line, all of Barnes & Noble’s e-books and digital content, and future jointly developed devices and digital services.
As it turns out, the two companies are still aiming to hit a self-imposed deadline to close the transaction by the fall and offer the first fruit of their union — a Nook app for Windows 8 — though they are running out of time.
A Barnes & Noble spokesperson provided TPM the following statement:
The company [Barnes & Noble] continues to be actively engaged in the formation of Newco and is in the process of implementing the work that is necessary to complete the transaction. The company expects the Microsoft transaction to close this fall.
Barnes & Noble is being cagey with an exact date, but one exists. As the company noted in its quarterly earnings statement in August (emphasis added):
“The closing conditions are set forth in the definitive documents between the parties. While there can be no assurance that the transaction will close or close by a particular date certain, the Company [Barnes & Noble] is actively pursuing work in connection with the closing conditions and is working to try and complete the required conditions in this Fall and, in any event, prior to the required date set forth in the definitive agreement.”
Back in April, when Newco was first announced, the two companies promised that there would be a Nook app for Microsoft’s forthcoming Windows 8 operating system, due to launch on October 26 along with Microsoft’s new Surface tablet, Microsoft’s first real hardware device.
Barnes & Noble reiterated in its quarterly filing that a Nook app for Windows 8 would be available as well, though no estimated release date was given. Instead, Barnes & Noble said it “entered into a commercial agreement with Microsoft, pursuant to which, among other things, NewCo will develop and distribute a Windows 8 application for e-reading and digital content purchases.”
Barnes & Noble’s spokesperson declined to provide further information on the app or any other joint Microsoft/B&N/Nook products, only adding that the app would allow customers to “shop and enjoy our wide selection of digital content on Windows 8 devices.”
The job listing, which appears to have been changed recently, used to read that the prospective hire would be responsible for:
delivering on our contractual commitments on Windows 8 applications, Cloud, commerce, content integration with the Microsoft ecosystem and for defining and delivering on product strategy of Nook integration with Microsoft ecosystem including Windows, Office, Bing.
The companies may already be collaborating more closely behind the scenes as well. Along with its new Nooks, Barnes & Noble announced “Nook Video,” a digital streaming and download service boasting an impressive line-up of content provider partners, including HBO, STARZ, Disney Studios and Warner Brothers and AMC. Apparently, it was Microsoft’s relationship with said content providers that Barnes & Noble was able to leverage to the Nook’s advantage, according to a report from Geek.com.
Notably, Barnes & Noble announced its first expansion of the Nook to the UK on Wednesday, though in a much more limited fashion than its availability and service offerings in the U.S. (Barnes & Noble doesn’t have any physical stores in the UK, but will work with large retail chains there to sell the Nook).
Barnes & Noble was more forthcoming about wanting to use Microsoft and Newco. to push its Nook and Nook digital content abroad.
“The support of Microsoft in ‘Newco’ will help us further advance our NOOK offering both in the US and internationally,” Barnes & Noble’s spokesperson said.
Both companies could use each others’ help too, with the Apple iPad and Amazon Kindle Fire lines dominating the tablet market in the U.S. For Microsoft, which tried and failed with its own e-book service, Barnes & Noble offers a chance at redemption and to catch up in a booming market.
Whatever comes of the partnership, it’s going to end up impacting Google as well. After all, Google’s Android Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0) operating system runs the new Nook devices, though in an unrecognizable, custom Barnes & Noble-designed form that doesn’t allow customers to easily access Google’s Play store, though Google does provide guidance on getting its Play e-books on Nooks.
On the plus side for Google, the deal between Microsoft and Barnes & Noble means that Microsoft won’t be suing Barnes & Noble for infringement over its use of Android (which Microsoft claims infringes upon certain Microsoft patents) anytime soon. Barnes & Noble have agreed to “dismiss certain outstanding patent litigation” between the companies, according to Barnes & Noble’s quarterly filing. On its own, though, Microsoft is still going after Android in the courts.
H/T: Mike Knepper