Why Microsoft might want to buy Nook Media

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Microsoft’s apparent interest in buying up all of Nook Media is that it hasn’t done so already.

As Laura Hazard Owen notes over on GigaOM, buying Nook Media would give Microsoft an e-reading platform to integrate with the Surface tablet to compete with Amazon’s Kindle platform and Apple’s iBookstore where it currently has none. But there’s more to Nook Media than ebooks. There’s also Nook Video and rest of the Nook Media content offerings (games, magazines, etc.). And the Surface (and Windows 8 Phone) really needs a native content ecosystem.

When Microsoft first announced the Surface, I assumed some mobilized version of Xbox Live would come baked in. That still seems like the most logical arrangement to me but for whatever reason it hasn’t happened. Maybe Microsoft wants to keep the Xbox brand tightly associated with the living room. Or maybe the tablet guys in Redmond just don’t talk to the Xbox guys. It’s been known to happen. But in the meantime, the lack of a baked in content-and-e-commerce platform hurting the Surface.

Yes, you can get movies and music and games on the Surface via various apps, but the experience is far from seamlessly integrated with the device and a a credit card account the way iTunes, Google Play and the Kindle ecosystem are with their respective operating systems and devices. And that’s what people expect with a tablet.

If Microsoft is really going to be a player in the tablet market, whether as a hardware maker or simply as an OS provider, it needs a store. If it doesn’t buy Nook Media it needs to build one itself, or figure out how to bake Xbox Live into a mobile device.