Are Microsoft working on a Kindle rival?

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An intriguing rumour courtesy of Liveside suggests that Microsoft might by readying a competitor for Amazon’s Kindle. Here’s what we know so far.

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The game appears to have been given away by American booksellers Barnes & Noble who are the people behind the Nook e-reader – which is probably the second most popular choice… a long way after the Kindle.

Apparently they’ve committed to some sort of tie-up with Microsoft – as revealed in a filing to the American Securities and Exchange Commission – roughly equivalent to our Competition Commission over here.

“Pursuant to the Amendment, NOOK Media LLC (“NOOK Media”) and Microsoft agreed to co-branding within the Microsoft Consumer Reader for reading content delivered by NOOK Media. The Amendment also provided that subject to certain conditions NOOK Media would be permitted to discontinue distributing the NOOK Windows app and will cooperate in good faith with Microsoft to transition users to the Microsoft Consumer Reader. Microsoft and NOOK Media also agreed to updated revenue sharing to address this possibility. The Amendment also permits NOOK Media to cease efforts with respect to a Windows phone app.”

Look beyond the distract legalese and capitalisation and words “MICROSOFT CONSUMER READER” jump out.

When placed alongside the other evidence – the case becomes pretty compelling. Again according to Liveside, apparently a few weeks ago the person in charge of Nook’s twitter account responded to a consumer query with this, before hastily deleting it:

“We appreciate your patience as we look forward to launching the best reading experience on Windows 8 phone in the near future”

Then there’s the fact that Microsoft have an internal development team called the Xbox “Music, Video and Reading” team and are advertising jobs for people to code an e-reader capable of displaying books, magazines and comics.

I know what you’re thinking… “Xbox?”. Yep, it doesn’t really seem to fit, but perhaps Microsoft are planning to launch an Xbox tablet or something similar? The fact that it is part of the Xbox division certainly suggests that it is hardware-oriented rather than merely (say) a software app that will run on Windows Phones and tablets.

We’ll have more if we hear anything.

James O’Malley