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Barnes & Noble Now Hiring Windows 8 Engineers For New Nook Devices

September 26th, 2012 by · 13 Comments · bn, hardware news, Microsoft

Now that B&N has their new Nook gadgetry out for all to see, it looks like they are going to turn their attention to their next set of devices.

Yesterday a friend tipped me to a couple new job postings for B&N. The jobs are located at the Nook facility in Palo Alto, Calif., and at least one is pretty clearly associated with new devices, not apps. That listing mentions the Nook hardware repeatedly, a detail which isn’t included in the job listings for app developers.

There’s little to indicate what the hardware will be, or what it will do, but it is clear that B&N is just beginning to build the team. B&N is looking for a “Director, Engineering Windows 8“, and that’s the only 1 of the 2 listings which mention Windows 8 as well as the Nook. The other new job listing looks to be aimed at someone to manage the app developers for Windows 8. Put the 2 together and they suggest that B&N is going to have the new guys build the teams.

What’s also interesting about the new job listings is that one confirms the rumored integration with MS software and services. The Director of Engineering is responsible for:

 delivering on our contractual commitments on Windows 8 applications, Cloud , commerce , content integration with the Microsoft ecosystem and for defining and delivering on product strategy of Nook integration with Microsoft  ecosystem including Windows, Office, Bing.

To be honest, this should come as no surprise, given that many bloggers jumped to this conclusion when the B&N/MS deal was announced back in April of this year. But it is still a surprise because Bill Lynch said this wasn’t going to happen. Of course, he did use the word “currently” when he made that statement back in May, so it is more than possible that this was always the next step.

While the current devices run Android, there is no reason that the next ones will also run the open source OS. And assuming B&N gets decent support from Microsoft, it might actually make sense to switch over to the newer OS.

So what do you think this means?  I am half expecting the MetroNook, as some have nicknamed the Nook running Windows 8. I’ve been chatting this morning with some B&N store folks and one pointed out the lack of NookStudy integration into the Nook devices. While I don’t think the NookStudy will ever be ported to Android (too many development issues), it would not be difficult to port the app to the next version of Windows, and it could then run on the next Nook.

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13 Comments so far ↓

  • ryanpmack

    It seems much more likely these engineers would be developing a Windows 8 client app for the Nook ecosystem, rather than B&N switching their devices to Windows 8.

    The deal with Microsoft could just be to have Nook be a pre-installed app on some W8 devices. Makes sense since Microsoft lacks its own ebookstore, but is itself trying to move into the tablet hardware market with its forthcoming Surface products.

    B&N switching to W8 would require them to pay Microsoft a licensing fee for each copy of the OS, something B&N currently avoid with their forked custom version of Android. Especially considering what have to be already razor-thin profit margins on their devices, that seems unlikely.

    • Nate Hoffelder

      What exactly would “a Windows 8 client app for the Nook ecosystem” be? Do you mean a Nook reading app running on Windows 8? Sure that will happen but type of job listing would not mention the Nook hardware.

      And I’m not sure that switching to Win8 will cost anything; Microsoft could be interested in having a flagship media device running Windows 8 – enough to be willing to pass on the fees.

  • Vonda Z

    This is what would give me pause about investing in a new Nook tablet at this time. When you go with a Nook or a Kindle, you are making a commitment to the BN or Amazon ecosystem (otherwise, you would go with a generic Android device). If BN plans to switch their tablets to Windows 8 down the road, you would lose your investment in apps should you decide to upgrade. There is too much uncertainty here for me to feel comfortable and so I would have a hard time recommending for anyone to go the BN route until we see how all of this is going to shake out.

    • Nate Hoffelder

      But apps are only one type of content in the Nook ecosystem. That doesn’t strike as being a good enough reason to avoid the platform entirely.

      • Vonda Z

        I think it makes one think twice if they are not already invested in a given ecosystem – especially if they are very app focused. Other content that you consume on your device (books, movies, websites, music), you can feel fairly confident you will still be able to consume it on the same device type if you upgrade to a newer model (and for me, there are better ways to consume this content than on a tablet anyway). But for apps, this is not always true and if you change the operating system, you start from scratch.

        It would be a huge decision for me to switch to another operating system and start all over with the apps. It might be worth it at some point, but it would give me pause. Knowing I was buying a new Android device locked into an ecosystem and that future devices in that ecosystem may likely run another operating system would be a turn-off for me. Too much uncertainty there. There would have to be a lot of draw to that particular product/ecosystem to overcome the feeling that my device was an “end of the line” device.

        But then again, from what I have heard, BN never has had a great app store to begin with, so maybe BN users are not as app focused and won’t care.

  • Lyman

    What???

    From the original press release when B&N and Microsoft said they were forming “Newco”.

    “… One of the first benefits for customers will be a NOOK application for Windows 8, which will extend the reach of Barnes & Noble’s digital bookstore by providing one of the world’s largest digital catalogues of e-Books, magazines and newspapers to hundreds of millions of Windows customers in the U.S. and internationally. …”

    An app (or set of Apps ) for Windows 8 for Nook ‘content’ has *always* been in the mix and will be for the long term also. That is a software issue, not a hardware/software content system delivery issue.

    Technically, Windows 8 does *NOT* run on ARM devices. Windows RT is the technical name for the ARM version of Windows. Technically Nook needs a Windows 8 UI app that runs on both RT and W8. As RT and W8 evolve Nook will need to track that evolution. That what that “director” job is for.

    Everything in that “Director of Engineering” job descirption is purely for Software (application) engineering. There is no embedded hardware experience or hardware design skills mentioned at all.

    Frankly, B&N and Microsoft haven’t announced what this “Newco” is going to be named. I suspect that if there are no trademark blockages that it will be named ‘Nook’ or ‘Nook technology’ or something leverages the Nook as a self standing entity and not necessarily a single product line name.

    For the ‘Nook’ DRM content to be successful it has to appear on all platforms. Not just bound to a single product line. There is upside for some who want the simplicity of a single vendor content portal but the majority of the market isn’t going to buy into that.

    Fact is that the B&N “cloud is likely going to be heavily leveraging Microsoft cloud services for infrastructure. The upcoming Exchange integration with the new tablets. Probably using Bing as the default search engine …… that’s all no joke given Microsoft is a sizable minority owner.

    That does not mean that Windows RT will be for sale and/or distribution as a skinnable OS to be reshaped by content delivery vendors. Even minority owned ones.

    • Nate Hoffelder

      Except that B&N was always going to do a Nook app for Windows. Windows is Windows, and it would be stupid for B&N to not support it.

      And I suggest that you go read the other job descriptions because those don’t mention the nook hardware. This one does.

  • Lyman

    “..And I suggest that you go read the other job descriptions because those don’t mention the nook hardware. This one does. …”

    Neither one of the job descriptions linked to this article are for hardware folks. If they aren’t representative of what this rumor is based on then why are they linked here?

    Porting Microsoft platforms for Nook readers is going to require three ports. “classic Windows” ( useful on Windows XP, Windows 7 , and in classic desktop context on Windows 8), Windows 8 UI ( Windows RT and Windows 8) , and WindowsPhone. There is also probably some back-end infrastructure software required for Azure ( Microsofts Cloud hosting/platform ). These are what the two linked job postings cover.

    If I have some free time later I’ll look for something plausible but given the linked job descriptions that looks like a wild goose chase.

    • Nate Hoffelder

      I was referring to job descriptions like this one:
      http://ch.tbe.taleo.net/CH16/ats/careers/requisition.jsp?org=BARNESANDNOBLE&cws=1&rid=1335

      There’s a big difference in how the jobs are discussed. One clearly mentions the Nook in ways that the other does not. And the same goes for the several other app developer job listings

      • Lyman

        Still software. And software written “on top of” the operating system. (Applications that run on the OS and use OS services. ).

        To be a hardware shift what would see is jobs looking for firmware software developers and/or OS kernel and mainstream OS drivers developers. Basically things *underneath* the abstraction barrier between what the OS presents and which interact in a very low level fashion with the hardware.

        As long as “Newco” is following a strategy of developing a highly customized physical device, it is doubtful that they will switch from Android. Stripped of the “standard” Google apps, Android is free to license. (Especially after cross licensing patents with Microsoft. Microsoft is after a couple of dollars per device from all Android device shippers. Newco is already licensed.). Bundling Windows RT onto a custom device would cost $30-50 which is huge for a $79-199 device. It isn’t likely to happen. Even after paying for several folks on staff to work on Android port/bugs/customizations that is a fixed cost (their yearly salaries) which are amortized over total number of devices sold. As long as they can sell several million devices it should work out lower than WindowsRT licensing costs.

        If they make Nook hardware too expensive it will fail. Windows is not the low cost option.

        What you are missing is the option where Nook hardware completely disappears. If the strategic relationship is so deep that Microsoft agrees to bundle Nook Apps as the default e-readers on all Windows devices ( phones , tablets , classic PC form factors) then Newco doesn’t really need hardware anymore. The major problem there is that Windows is worldwide and Newco isn’t. So for the moment it would be problematical to bundle it. Perhaps if they fill in lots of distribution blanks by Windows 9 they could do that. (also presumes that WinRT will be very significant player in the tablet space. Microsoft probably believes that will happen. From the outside that is fuzzy in the sub 9″ tablet space. )

        However, that means abandoning a more focused device that offers a specialized experience. That may be worth abandoning if present by default on several hundred million devices per year.

        For now though, sticking with Android for the specialized device is far less risky than trying to bet the farm on Windows. To some extent same for Microsoft. Folks buying Android still means money flowing into their pockets and they don’t actually have to do anything but cash the checks. What Microsoft needs short term is make using Windows at least as attractive, if not more, device to consume Nook content on. Bundling isn’t necessary. Just the “go to” device once out of the sub 9″ space.

    • Nate Hoffelder

      But as I sit here with no one having picked up the story I would say that I am probably wrong.

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