Microsoft, B&N to Unveil Tablet? (MSFT, BKS, AAPL, AMZN, GOOG)

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At a hastily arranged event scheduled for today at 3:30 p.m. Pacific Time, Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) is expected to announce a new tablet device to be built by its joint venture with Barnes & Noble Inc. (NYSE: BKS). The two firms announced the joint venture in late April.

According to TechCrunch:

The event would be the first public showing of what the two have been working on and may answer the question of why the invite was so bare – because they haven’t announced anything yet and the joint operation has yet to be named. Another source says the tablet may be the first non-Xbox device to gain Xbox Live streaming capabilities, which might explain the location of the event.

The Microsoft-B&N device is expected to use Microsoft’s RT operating system and would put the two companies in direct competition with Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL), Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN), and Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG). The tablet is thought to be entertainment-focused, which would certainly make sense if it does include Xbox Live capability.

The impact of the announcement, if it does in fact meet current expectations, probably won’t have much effect on Apple and the company’s market-leading iPad. But Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet could feel some effect, and Google, whose Android operating system currently runs B&N’s Nook e-reader, could take a bigger hit.

Another possibility is that Microsoft will simply buy out B&N’s stake in the joint venture. The Redmond giant can certainly afford it.

Shares of B&N are up 5% in pre-market trading this morning, at $16.38 in a 52-week range of $9.35-$26.00.

Paul Ausick