Following rumors that Barnes & Noble plans to release a sequel to the Nook Tablet later this year, Digital Trends has learned that the book retailer will announce the gadget during a press conference – scheduled for late September – held in the Union Square flagship location in New York City. This is the same place Barnes & Noble has held previous press events to reveal its devices.
Details surrounding the new tablet are virtually nonexistent, and for good reason. Google recently launched its Nexus 7 tablet, and Amazon just revealed its Android 4.0-powered Kindle Fire HD 7- and 8.9-inch tablets which seemingly trumps what Google currently has in its hand. The last contender to show its cards is Apple which will supposedly showcase its iPad Mini – presumably a scaled down version of the older 1st-gen iPad 2 tablet – sometime during October (after the iPhone 5 reveal later this month).
But Barnes & Noble, which really hasn't seen the tablet exposure enjoyed by rivals Amazon, Apple and Google, may have its own ace up its sleeve. There's indication that the Nook Tablet sequel may be powered by Windows 8, as the book retailer has been working closely with Microsoft, according to sources. Prior models have focused on the ease of use as an e-reader – this one may focus on tablet features like multimedia, gaming and whatnot, more so than before.
That said, the new Nook won't hit the market until after Microsoft launches Windows 8. It may be that Barnes & Noble will wait and see what Apple has in store for the iPad Mini, and will launch the gadget sometime in November. Using Windows 8 will put Barnes & Noble in a more aggressive stance against the competitors, but for a higher cost given that Microsoft doesn't freely distribute its OS like Google's open-source Android.
But here's one important, glaring factor: Microsoft is investing $605 million over five years in Barnes & Noble's Nook and college business. In turn, the book retailer is receiving a much-needed capital injection and means to enter the digital books market outside the United States. This new subsidiary, as reported back in April by Reuters, will be run and majority owned by Barnes & Noble, and will maintain a relationship with the bookstore chain's nearly 700 storage.
"The deal brings Microsoft technology and engineers into the Nook business - that talent will be tapped to make the Nook even better," said Albert Greco, a book industry expert at the business school of Fordham University in New York. "It gives Microsoft a tablet already, and Barnes & Noble global reach for the Nook platform, through Windows 8."
Microsoft's initial investment will be $300 million, giving it a 17.6-percent stake in the new Barnes & Noble subsidiary which is valued at $1.7 billion. Over the next five years, Microsoft will invest another $305 million. Barnes & Noble Chief Executive William Lynch originally said the funds would be dumped into the international rollout and new reading software for the Windows platform.
Because of these factors, a Nook Tablet HD powered by Windows 8 seems all too likely for a late October – early November release. Given Microsoft's investment, the Redmond company will likely do away with the licensing fees associated with the OS, although at this point it's unclear as to where Barnes & Noble will go on the hardware front: x86/x64 or ARM? Either way, Microsoft has it covered.
Here's something else to chew on: the Nook Tablet HD will probably not be in the same competitive bracket as Microsoft's own Surface. The Barnes & Noble device will likely still focus on reading books, and will likely stay within the 7-inch market, giving Microsoft a $199 jewel in its upcoming tablet portfolio.