A Windows 8 e-reader: If someone builds it, will they come?

Summary:There are new hints that Windows 8-based dedicated e-readers sporting the Metro UI are in the works.

I found it interesting, like The Register did, that Microsoft is continuing to tout e-readers as one of the platforms on which its Metro user interface will be available.

Microsoft Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner, who kicked off the keynote at the Microsoft Convergence conference on March 19, mentioned readers as one of a handful of form factors where Metro will play. Turner made the same observation last summer when he keynoted the Microsoft Partner Conference. Here's the slide he used last July to make the point:

The "One Microsoft" message which company brass increasingly is championing involves a consistent Metro UI on phones, tablets, slates, readers, PCs and TVs. The one form factor where we haven't yet seen a Metro implementation (I believe) is e-readers.

The e-reader mention is interesting, as Microsoft officials have been sending pretty strong signals for a while now that the Redmondians had no intentions of playing directly in the e-reader space. Bill Hill, one of the movers and shakers behind Microsoft's ClearType and a big backer of e-reading, was let go from Microsoft in 2009. In August 2011, Microsoft announced it was going to eliminate its Reader product as of August 2012. Launched in 2000, Microsoft Reader offered access to eBooks on any Windows-based device - including PDAs and smartphones - in the company's own .lit format.

Just a couple of years ago, Microsoft was touting Windows Embedded Compact as its operating system for "consumption" devices (like e-readers) and Windows as its OS for "creation"-focused devices. Abruptly last year, the Softies halted their proclamations around this positioning, and instead began touting Windows 8 as a "no compromises" operating system that could switch seamlessly between creation and consumption.

Now Microsoft is touting idea that there will be e-readers that makes use of the Metro UI. I'm assuming that means they will run Windows 8, as Microsoft seems to be limiting OEMs from putting the Windows Phone OS on screens above a certain size (not exactly sure what the cut-off is these days, given the large, 4.7-inch Windows Phone Titan screen). And I'd think these coming Windows 8 Metro e-readers, if and when they materialize, could be running on ARM.

There was some speculation when Microsoft's Brandon Watson left the Windows Phone team to join Amazon's Kindle Cross Platform team as to whether Amazon might have a Windows-based e-reader in the wings. Amazon is working on a Windows 8 Kindle app, but I haven't heard anything about Microsoft's neighbor doing a dedicated Windows 8 e-reader. But there's nothing to stop Amazon from putting Windows 8 on a new Fire or other Kindle...

Any other thoughts, guesses and/or hopes as to what kinds of Metro/Windows 8 e-readers may materialize this year and beyond that have a hope against the Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook?

Topics: Microsoft, Hardware, Mobility, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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