Monday, April 30, 2012

Microsoft Sees A Future With The B&N Nook

Microsoft just took a position with the Nook, Barnes and Noble's stock is rising and Liberty Media must be feeling good too.   The resulting investment by Microsoft to Nook adds a well needed boost to help it expand in the e-book and tablet space and fight off Amazon and Apple.  So will the Nook technology improve?  Will Windows 8 become its operating system?  And how will the added dollars help to win customers from its rivals?

Some see this investment as the push to separate Nook from its physical bookstore.  "Some on Wall Street see the Nook as a fast-growing technology asset trapped within a slower retail stock. They have theorized that Barnes & Noble would spin off the Nook business to give it a chance to trade at a higher valuation." I wonder if the Nook is a stand alone business would it only hasten the loss of the Barnes & Noble Bookstores.  And that would be a sad day.

For now, Nook and B&N must feel a sigh of relief with this new investment.  This added capital will certainly help to speed up innovation and bring better products to market.  It could be the kick in the pants that the Nook needs to be competitive.

Hulu Could Stop Being Free

It's time to teach the younger generation one of the great tenets of business, nothing of value is given for free.  Everything has a price and that price will continue to rise as more and more entities want their fair share of the revenue.  So for those that have enjoyed quality long form content from the cable pay model for free on Hulu, it may one day be time to announce that the "free lunch is over".

"In fact, the move by Hulu toward the new model — called authentication because viewers would have to log in with their cable or satellite TV account number — was behind the move last week by Providence Equity Partners to cash out of Hulu after five years, these sources said." As the NY Post has  reported, the cable companies are seeking to stop cord cutting, customers dropping their cable subscriptions, by turning Hulu from a digital competitor to its partner  in TV Everywhere.

But the move to authentication may take a while to coordinate.  "To be sure, Hulu’s slow move toward authentication comes amid a jumble of cable and network game plans for streaming — which remain a strategic nightmare thanks to the complicated nature of the TV Everywhere initiative, which is aimed at keeping top shelf digital video exclusive to pay-TV subscribers."

For customers tired of paying  high rates for cable subscriptions, quality programming is being created for other OTT distribution; for example, You Tube is building out live channels.  But as we have discovered, nothing stays free and as we look ahead a decade, all this free content will eventually find itself behind different types of pay models.  For now, enjoy the free lunch while it lasts.