Microsoft, take my Nook, please!

A deal between Microsoft and Barnes & Noble to essentially spin off the Nook business has me dreaming in the Metro UI.

Over-the-air Windows 8 updates have been dancing in my head.

The announcement that Microsoft & Barnes and Noble are going in together on what essentially amounts to a spin-off of B&N's Nook business could prevent an ugly divorce in my household. For those who know me personally, don't worry, my wife and I are getting along just fine, but I can't say the same for me and my Nook Tablet.

Shortly after the Nook Tablet -- an updated version of the popular Nook Color e-reader -- was released in November, one showed up on my doorstep as an early holiday gift from a family member.

At first, I was swept off my feet -- as a writer, I'd resisted the temptation to buy an iPad or comparable Android tablet, holding firm to the close relationship I've developed over my career with hard-wired keyboards, so this was essentially my first relationship with a touch screen.

I was in love with the 7-inch form factor -- the iPad had always seemed just a bit too much -- and loved that the Nook came with beefier specs and better responsiveness than Amazon's Kindle Fire. Reading my daughter an animated bedtime story before switching over to some "Daddy time," browsing full-color magazines, seemed like it would become a new nightly ritual.

But it didn't take long to run up against the Nook's limitations. Compared to the content libraries of Apple, Android, and Amazon , the B&N digital store leaves a lot to be desired. There's only a fraction of the total selections and almost no free content, and major apps like Facebook are nowhere to be found.

The obvious solution was to root the sucker. After all, the Nook Color initially gained cult popularity as a favorite for rooters who jailbroke the device and used it as a de facto Android tablet. Rooting was a simple process, but within days, an over-the-air update from Barnes & Noble broke the root, requiring a hard reset.

Yes, there are ways to re-root with a better chance of having it stick, but frankly, I haven't gotten around to it, and in the interim, I've discovered more limitations to the B&N ecosystem and begun to covet friends' iPads.

While the Nook is labeled a tablet, Barnes & Noble clearly still views it as an e-reader, disabling simple features like copying and pasting to prevent potential copyright breaches of its e-book content. Lacking that simple function means that it is often impossible -- or at least a big pain in the butt -- to use the Nook Tablet to get any work done.

And that brings me to the Microsoft deal announced this week.

While I realize that the product of the new partnership isn't likely to turn my Nook into an iPad anytime soon, the idea that a company with a background in user experience and productivity getting involved behind the scenes is a big step forward.

Now when I boot up my Nook, I have a momentary (and admittedly far-fetched) fantasy that one day, an over-the-air update will push Windows 8 with a full suite of productivity apps onto the device.

Of course, it's more likely that any Windows 8-based system on a Barnes & Noble slate will only be available on new, upcoming hardware. And by the time such a device comes to fruition, I'm likely to have given in to iPad temptation, but we'll see.

 

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