New Job Listing at Microsoft Confirms Earlier Hints that MS has an "Xbox Reading" App for Windows 8
Microsoft might be boringly monolithic at times, but their sheer size often lets them throw several teams at a single market.
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.
fjtorres February 10, 2014 um 10:13 am
In absolute terms there are three distinct ebook industries, only one of which is currently developing: recreational reading.
The other two, corporate documents and academic reading, both have very different needs and focuses. MS is one of the very few companies that can credibly aspire to play in all three markets.
Because of their corporate presence and document management power through Office and Sharepoint, MS is the company best positioned to address corporate documents, despite the efforts by Ricoh, Brother, et al to address the problem with hardware. Corporate documents is a problem that really needs a top down centralized solution. The good news for MS is nobody of consequence is playing there so they have the field open. (No, Google docs is not the answer.)
Academic reading is a hybrid that needs both centralized software and servers and the ability to support a variety of client hardware. MS should have addressed this market with the Courier or a OneNote Tablet solution years ago but now face a BYOD scenario where a Cloud-based solution might be more viable than the current approaches based on roach-motel pdf or the magical non-standard standard that is epub3. Sooner or later somebody will figure this one out.
And then there is recreational reading; despite their head start in the PDA age, MS thoroughly ignored this market, probably out of frustration with the BPHs. Now that they are recommiting to the consumer market they definitely need a recreational reading solution for Wibdiws Phones and tablets.
Which is where their quickie deal with Nook came in. With a year-plus under their belt and what appear to be underwhelming results this hint of an XBOX branded reading app portends interesting things.
At a minimum it suggests a branding change for the Windows store ebook section. They might be keeping Nook as the suplier but changing the storefront. They might be, as suggested, taking over parts of Nook media and bringing them inhouse; instead of shutting down Nook or selling it, MS trades its Nook Media ownership share (and maybe some spare change) for the Nook ebookstore and indie-pub units. Or they may be preparing to ditch nook and roll their own solution.
It’ll be interesting to see which road MS takes and how much they rely on Nook assets moving forward.