Microsoft Building an Xbox Reader App for Windows 8

After music and movies, Microsoft is reportedly set to extend the Xbox brand to ebooks.

Microsoft is reportedly working on an Xbox Reader app for Windows 8 that will bring ebooks and magazines to PCs and tablets powered by the OS.

The app was revealed in a job listing uncovered by LiveSino, a Chinese Microsoft blog, according to The Verge's Tom Warren. He reported that Microsoft is seeking a "software design engineer to build 'a groundbreaking interactive reading app on Windows, which incorporates books, magazines, and comics.' Potential candidates would join the same Music, Video, and Reading (MVR) team that has already shipped two built-in Xbox branded apps for Windows 8."

A new Xbox-branded Reader app stands a strong chance of seeing the light of day. A source confirmed that "Microsoft is planning to build the new app," said Warren. The current Reader app is fairly basic, he noted, allowing users to display PDF, XPS and TIFF files. It is unclear this early whether the app will appear on its namesake console.

The company's Office division is also getting in on the act, although with a more business-flavored version. "Microsoft’s Office team is also developing its own separate 'Office Reader' app for Windows 8. Office Reader is designed to be a cross-format tool for consuming different types of content, including PDFs and textbooks," said Warren. Office Reader is expected to launch later this year and is being developed separately by the MVR team.

Oct. 4, 2012, the software giant hinted at a fuller e-reader ecosystem on Windows 8 after investing $300 million in Nook Media, a joint venture between Microsoft and embattled bookseller Barnes & Noble.

At the time, Microsoft President Andy Lees said, "Nook Media is a leader in developing the next generation of digital reading and we look forward to the company bringing one of the world's largest digital libraries to Windows 8 devices via their upcoming Windows 8 app." The listing suggests that Microsoft has bigger e-reading ambitions than the Nook app for Windows 8.

Nook Media remains under Barnes & Noble's corporate umbrella, despite rumblings that Microsoft was interested in snapping up Nook Media for $1 billion. The Kindle competitor failed to stem the company's mounting losses.

Business Insider reported on Feb. 10 that the Nook hardware engineering staff had suffered layoffs. The Nook product line includes an e-ink reader and a variety of compact and full-sized Android-based tablets. A spokesperson told the site:

"We've been very clear about our focus on rationalizing the NOOK business and positioning it for future success and value creation. As we've aligned NOOK's cost structure with business realities, staffing levels in certain areas of our organization have changed, leading to some job eliminations. We're not going to comment specifically on those eliminations."

A healthy reader app ecosystem could help Microsoft compete against Apple in the education sector. In early 2012, Apple launched iBooks 2 and authoring tools that pave the way for interactive textbooks on the iPad, potentially opening up a new billion-dollar business for the Cupertino, Calif.-based device maker.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...