B&N has just rolled out another update for their 8-month-old Windows 8 app. According to the press release, this update adds:
a new user interface, faster performance and the most requested features including highlighting, annotations, dictionary lookup, find in books, improved shop and search functionality, and the ability to sideload ePub and PDF files from their local drives. Users can now search for content in their library or the shop by simply starting to type, which will initiate the search charm.
Given that Windows 8 had around a 4% market share (source), I have to wonder why B&N is wasting resources like this.
OSX has a larger market share (7%), and the Nook for Mac app has not been updated since late 2011. Heck, Win7 and WinXP still account for over 80% of the OSes running on PCs, and the Nook app for PC has not been updated since March 2012.
Barnes & Noble is once again lavishing attention on an app that hardly anyone can use, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why.
I’m betting that B&N is contractually obligated to update the Windows 8 app. This would be the kind of thing Microsoft would demand in exchange for the $600 million they promised to invest in Nook Media ($300 million at the announcement plus $300-ish million later). In fact, Microsoft’s ongoing investment in Nook Media is probably directly funding development of the Windows 8 app.
That ongoing investment might also explain what few details B&N has shared about their wreckage that used to be their international expansion plans. I was told yesterday that B&N was “working together with Microsoft to launch in additional countries”. Now I have to wonder if that expansion is going to occur in Microsoft’s own Windows Store rather than as independent local Nook Stores.
If anything that is probably a good sign that MS has an interest in the long term health of Nook Media. After Barnes & Noble goes bankrupt next year, Microsoft will likely decide to buy Nook Media out of the bankruptcy so they can have their own ebook division (like Samsung, Sony, or Google).
Admittedly that will reduce the stature of Nook Media from being one of the players to being one of the also-rans, but at least it won’t be completely dead.