Following Microsoft and Barnes and Noble's joint announcement earlier today that Microsoft would be investing $300 million for a 17.6% stake in a Barnes and Noble spinoff company based around Barnes and Noble's Nook line, speculation is now mounting that future Nook products may be powered by Windows. Microsoft's comments on the issue haven't clarified the situation, as company executives only provided a "no comment" on the matter during a conference call with financial analysts.
Mary-Jo Foley of ZDNet believes Microsoft's already left clues that such a partnership may be part of this deal. According to Foley, a Nook e-reader powered by Windows may not run Windows RT (the ARM-based version of Windows 8). Instead, Nook e-readers may be powered by a Windows embedded operating system modified specifically for the Nook brand. If the new Nook company went this route, the operating system would still likely feature a Metro design, but it wouldn't tie in with the Windows RT ecosystem of apps (although this wouldn't be a loss since e-readers are only meant to be reading devices). A future Nook Tablet could potentially still use Windows RT, however. Windows Phone's upcoming revision, Apollo, could be another option for the Nook brand. This is the most unlikely scenario, however, as Microsoft has prohibited the Windows Phone platform from being used on anything other than a phone.
Nook certainly doesn't have strong ties to Android that would hinder it from changing operating systems. While Nook e-readers and tablets are based on Android, they are heavily skinned and don't use Google's Android Market. The Nook line also doesn't use the latest versions of Android; the original Nook e-reader is powered by Android 1.5, the Nook Simple Touch is powered by Android 2.1, the Nook Color is powered by Android 2.2 and the Nook Tablet is powered by Android 2.3.
It would certainly be odd if Microsoft were making a substantial investment in Barnes and Noble's Nook spinoff without getting something substantial in return. When the company invested in Facebook, for instance, tight integration between Bing and Facebook followed, with Facebook utilizing Bing Maps and Bing providing better search results for Facebook-related searches. Given that the announcement termed the investment a "strategic partnership," it's safe to assume that there will be more to this investment than we currently know.
Barnes and Noble's stock is currently up an astounding 60% (currently $22.01, up from its previous close of $13.68) following its strategic partnership announcement with Microsoft.