Microsoft's Office team pushes ahead with 'active reading' products, services

A new Microsoft job posting indicates the Office team is working on some kind of reading/publishing app/service which may be related to its Barnes & Noble partnership.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft and Barnes & Noble officials have said next-to-nothing about what's going on between the two companies since they announced their patent settlement and NewCo joint partnership in late April.


That hasn't stopped us Microsoft watchers from looking for clues. The latest I've found isn't huge, but it does indicate reading -- specifically "active reading" -- is of keen interest to the Redmondians.

A job posting for an Office unit program manager, dated August 22, calls for someone to work on "V1 (version 1) team" that is working on developing products and services for "active reading."

From that posting:

"Microsoft Office Division has big plans in this area and our team is creating innovative V1 products and services that delight active readers. The recent partnership we announced with Barnes & Noble is a strong indication of our commitment to the reading space."

Among the qualifications for this role are "a broad understanding of the digital content ecosystem for books and documents"; HTML/JavaScript proficiency; and ability to work with "partners," like the Windows 8 team.

(Microsoft researchers have been investigating the implications of active reading for several years. But it appears research has given way to planned commoditization.)

It's worth noting this isn't the first time there've been hints of some kind of souped-up authoring experience coming from Microsoft. Earlier this spring, William Lynch, the B&N CEO, mentioned something along these lines in a Q&A with Fortune:

Lynch: If you look at the content sort of flow from authoring tools, obviously, Microsoft is one of the leaders, if not the leader in authoring tools with Word, PowerPoint, Excel, their Office franchise, all the way through the transaction buying merchandising, sale or cloud management of the content. You can see us working across that.

So again we haven't announced anything specifically, but imagine an integration where an information worker, student, author, consumer, creates something in Office and has it immediately published for sale through the Nook book store. It starts to open a lot of exciting possibilities.

So what is this planned "active reading" app/service? Is it a self-publishing tool for those looking to participate in the digital-publishing space? An add-on for Nook e-readers/tablets, or the crux of a Wook (Windows- or Windows Phone-based Nook reader/tablet)?

Or maybe it's a modified take on "Moorea" -- the Microsoft-developed Courier-like note-taking app? Last I speculated, I thought Microsoft might have integrated Moorea into OneNote 2013. But one of my sources said Microsoft has delayed Moorea until post-Office 2013, looking to make it an authoring/curating experience for collections of digital "things" including Office documents. So maybe this "active reading" app/service will be a Metro-fied/modern-style Windows 8/9 app?

As the Wall Street Journal noted recently, Microsoft's NewCo deal with B&N is expected to close in late October or early November

Any other guesses, educated or not, about what this new active-reading app/service from the Office team might be?

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