Microsoft has gotten next to nothing from its $300 million investment in Barnes & Noble, analysts said, but it may reap some rewards as it prepares to ship smaller tablets.

In April 2012, Microsoft and the bookseller announced a new, co-owned subsidiary that included Barnes & Noble’s Nook business. That bought Microsoft a 17.6% stake in the company. Other parts of the deal settled patent disputes between the two, promised Nook royalties to Microsoft and yielded a Nook app for Microsoft’s “Modern” tiled user interface.

A year later, Microsoft has “gotten nothing up to now,” said Carolina Milanesi, a Gartner analyst.

But observers say the deal could still pay off in the form of a new generation of smaller, less expensive Windows tablets that would be better suited to e-reading than current larger models are.

A 7-in. or 8-in. tablet “is a great form factor” for e-reading, Milanesi said. Other analysts agreed that the Nook Media collaboration could pay dividends if Microsoft or one of its partners introduces such a device.

“This was more an investment in an organization,” said IDC analyst Bob O’Donnell. “How that continues to play out we’ll just have to see.”

 


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