A recent job opening (opens in new tab) posted by Microsoft has stirred up speculation that the company is working on an Xbox-branded reading application that will replace the current one in Windows 8. News of the job opening arrives as sources claimed on Monday that Barnes & Noble laid off most of its Nook hardware staff. Their departure follows the departure of VP of Hardware, Bill Saperstein, in January.
"We've been very clear about our focus on rationalizing the NOOK business and positioning it for future success and value creation," a Barnes & Noble rep said. "As we've aligned NOOK's cost structure with business realities, staffing levels in certain areas of our organization have changed, leading to some job eliminations. We're not going to comment specifically on those eliminations."
Due to poor sales of the Nook tablets, the company decided to bail out of the hardware business in 2013 and focus on its own applications and digital distribution. The hardware will be shifted to third-party partners to create co-branded tablets.
Back in April 2012, Microsoft revealed that it invested $300 million USD into a Barnes & Noble subsidiary that handles the e-book division of the book store chain, as well as the college bookstore unit. Microsoft claims a 17.6 percent equity stake while Barnes & Noble owns approximately 82.4 percent. One of the first products from this new subsidiary was the Nook app for Windows 8.
That leads us to the current job listing (opens in new tab), discovered by Chinese Microsoft blog LiveSino. Microsoft is looking for a software development engineer to build "a groundbreaking interactive reading app on Windows, which incorporates books, magazines, and comics."
Keep in mind that Microsoft already has the music (Xbox Music) and video (Xbox Video) aspect covered. The current Reader app merely opens up files stored locally and in the cloud, supporting PDF, XPS and TIFF files. The app is a basic reader that doesn't offer books, magazines, and whatnot to purchase like the Kindle and Nook apps.
So what does Nook have to do with a new ebook reader? There's speculation that Microsoft's new effort may be powered by Barnes & Noble -- another byproduct of the 2012 agreement. This is just speculation, of course, but the Microsoft job application is very real, as is Barnes & Noble eliminating a large portion of the Nook hardware staff.
According to the listing, the individual taking the job would be on Microsoft's MVR team, or the Music, Video, Reading team. "The Music, Video, and Reading team has been brought together in Devices & Studios (DnS) as THE Microsoft team laser-focused to deliver the next generation of media content experiences across devices powered by the services and magic of Xbox LIVE," reads the description.
Sounds like a fun place to work. Perhaps we'll see the new Reading app during BUILD 2014 in April or in Windows 8.1 Update 1.