Does the Nook Tablet fire sale mean something big is afoot?

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Judging by the recent spate of news about Barnes & Noble’s Nook business, it looks like some big changes could be on the way.

First it was reported that the company killed the Nook apps for PC and Macs, and this week news came that the company is continuing its promotional pricing on Nook tablets indefinitely in what looks like an effort to clear out inventory.

Now, I think such an inventory clear out wouldn’t be happening unless something big was about to happen.

What could that something big be? One possibility is a discontinuation of the Nook tablet business. Another is that the company is also getting out of hardware — and possibly ebooks — altogether.

Chances are it wouldn’t just abandon a business and brand it has spent years building, and instead likely would look to sell the company. And if the rumors that first popped up in May are true, that company could be Microsoft.

If the Microsoft rumors were indeed true and it is looking to acquire the Nook business, there are a couple of  ways this could play out. One is that we could see a relaunch of the Nook hardware on top of Windows 8.  A more likely scenario is that the Nook-branded hardware will be completely phased out in favor of Microsoft’s and its partners’ third-party hardware, with Nook becoming the ebook storefront for Windows 8 devices.

And then of course there’s the remote — but not entirely out of the question — possibility that Microsoft could buy the entirety of Barnes & Noble. Sure it’s unlikely, but Microsoft’s own retail strategy has floundered, and I think buying B&N could give it a company with significant retail understanding as well as access to the B&N education retail network, which could be crucial in helping Microsoft — and Windows — stay relevant in the education market, something that is becoming increasingly imperiled in the age of the iPad.

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