Take ebooks, for example. In addition to investing in Nook Media and developing a textbook-focused Reader app for MS Office, Microsoft is also working on another ebook app as part of the Xbox division.
The hot story this morning comes via a Chinese gadget blog. LiveSino discovered that Microsoft is looking to hire a developer to work on "a groundbreaking interactive reading app on Windows, which incorporates books, magazines, and comics." The engineer hired in this position would join the same Music, Video, and Reading (MVR) team that has already shipped two Xbox branded apps for Windows 8.
It's not clear why Microsoft is investing in a third ebook parallel ebook effort, but I'm not surprised to learn that they have. As I pointed out in October 2013, the acronym in the title of the Xbox MVR unit stands for Music, Video, and Reading. That unit had already released a music app and a video app, so at some point I was expecting it to spawn a reading app on Windows 8, and possibly the Xbox.
If I had to guess, the Office and Xbox reading apps are going to be targeted at 2 different markets. The still-unannounced Office Reader will likely focus on academic, technical, and educational content, while the Xbox MVR app will more likely focus on fiction, including both novels and graphic novels. There is also a possibility that this new job posting is a sign that the work on the Nook Windows 8 app will be shifting to MS, but it's too early to say.
I know that many refer to the ebook market as a single unit, but in reality it is still segmented based on content. It might make sense for Microsoft to develop a couple different apps which each focus on a different segment and have different features and abilities.
If nothing else, this new job listing shows that Microsoft is getting their money's worth from their $300 million (plus a promised $300 million) investment in Nook Media in 2012. They already got the international Nook Store, which launched in late 2013 in 32 countries (including Australia) - but is only available for Windows 8.