Android Devices

Microsoft & Barnes & Noble settle patent dispute, announce new company for digital reading

April 30, 2012 | by Andrew Kameka



Microsoft and Barnes & Noble have finally put an end to their patent dispute regarding the use of Android in Barnes & Noble’s NOOK, NOOK Color, and NOOK Tablet. The two companies announced today that they have reached a settlement and will launch a new subsidiary focused on digital reading.

The new company, temporarily called Newco until a proper name is chosen, will have 82.4 percent ownership by Barnes & Noble and 17.6 percent by Microsoft. The deal was made possible by Microsoft’s $300 million investment and dropping its lawsuit against B&N, allowing the two forces to work towards a better digital reading environment.

Ah, but what kind of environment will it be? Surely Microsoft didn’t write a $300 million check just so Barnes & Noble could keep pumping out Nook devices based on Android, did it? Yes, because Microsoft will get royalties from Nook products and now has a partial ownership of a subsidiary that could yield more money if the company is successful. It will also lead to a Nook reading app built for Windows 8.

“We use open-source Android and do a lot of customization to deliver the kinds of experience on Nook hardware that we’ve been able to deliver,” said Andy Milevoj, Barnes & Noble director of investor relations, in a phone briefing earlier today. “That doesn’t really relate to this partnership much at all….what we’re focused on with this partnership is unlocking the reading experiences to the hundreds of millions of consumers and students that will be using Windows. That’s the focus.”

For now, at least. Milevoj declined to answer specifics when asked if we could see Windows 8 RT on a future Nook, saying only that the company would not reveal its roadmap. When an analyst framed his question by suggesting that the Nook was on the lower tier of hardware, Milevoj jumped in to say that the Nook Tablet’s TI OMAP processor was “plenty powerful” and would be capable of handling Windows, though he again reiterated that’s not something they are prepared to discuss publicly.

So in short, Nook fans will continue getting support for their tablet/ereader. Microsoft invested money to make money, not shut down an Android product. If you love your Nook device, you don’t have to worry about anything right now.