A report claims that Microsoft is close to purchasing Barnes & Noble’s NOOK business for $1 billion. But Microsoft apparently isn’t interested in the chain’s struggling ebook reader devices. Instead, the firm is looking to obtain NOOK’s digital assets, which it could integrate into its growing digital content ecosystem.
News of Microsoft’s interest in NOOK was first reported by TechCrunch. According to the site, Microsoft has offered $1 billion to buy the digital assets of NOOK Media, a joint venture of Microsoft and Barnes & Noble that was previously spun off from the bookseller.
Microsoft last year invested $300 million in NOOK Media in order to gain a 17 percent share of the company, a deal that valued the total NOOK business—devices, software, and services—at over $1.7 billion. But with NOOK hardware sales falling precipitously in the holiday quarter, a new strategy was needed.
Interestingly, Microsoft’s new offer fits nicely into a secret NOOK Media plan to make the business profitable: It was planning to discontinue its fading NOOK tablet business by the end of 2014 in order to focus on delivering NOOK content to other devices. If Microsoft does purchase NOOK’s digital assets, that plan would presumably come together much more quickly.
Microsoft could theoretically make NOOK ebooks part of its growing ecosystem of apps and media, the latter of which now includes Xbox-branded music and video services. Currently, Xbox Music and Xbox Video work only with Microsoft’s own platforms—Windows, Windows Phone, and Xbox—but the firm previously announced plans to bring these services to Apple’s iOS (iPad, iPhone, iPod touch) and Google Android. NOOK software and services would fit nicely into this family of offerings.
News of the reported offer coincidentally comes in the same week that Microsoft announced that Amy Hood would take over the CFO role at the company. Hood previously spearheaded two of Microsoft’s biggest and most recent corporate purchases, Skype ($8.5 billion, 2011) and Yammer ($1.2 billion, 2012).
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