Where’s Microsoft? Samsung, Barnes & Noble partnering on co-branded Nook tablet

Galaxy-Tab-4-NOOK_25The odd pairing between Microsoft and Barnes & Noble just took another strange twist.

The bookseller’s Nook Media unit announced a new partnership with Samsung this morning to develop a co-branded Galaxy Tab 4 Nook tablet, featuring the Nook software and access to more than 3 million books, magazines and newspapers.

Barnes & Noble, which has struggled to compete against Amazon’s Kindle lineup, is no longer making its own Nook tablets but says it will continue to offer its Nook GlowLight reader.

The deal with Samsung is very much the type of arrangement that many people expected from Microsoft and Barnes & Noble when the Redmond company announced a $300 million investment in the bookseller more than two years ago, as part of their patent settlement agreement.

That partnership hasn’t panned out as planned, and Microsoft and Barnes & Noble this year altered their agreement for Nook apps on Windows devices — shifting away from plans for standalone Nook apps for Windows 8 and Windows Phone, and focusing instead on a Microsoft reading app for Windows that would leverage Nook content.

However, Microsoft remains an investor in Nook Media, owning about 17 percent of the unit as of a regulatory filing in March. We’ve contacted Microsoft and Barnes & Noble this morning for more information on the status of their partnership.

Follow-up: Interview: Barnes & Noble CEO ‘not worried about Amazon’ as Nook ties fortunes to Samsung

The new Galaxy Tab 4 tablet will be available in August, sold through Barnes & Noble’s 700 U.S. stores and online portal. Pricing wasn’t announced.

Barnes & Noble’s agreement with Samsung, and discontinuation of its own Windows apps, makes sense given Nook’s heritage on Android. Under the initial agreement with Samsung, Nook Media has agreed to purchase at least 1 million of the Galaxy Tab Nook tablets in the first 12 months after launch, according to a regulatory filing this morning.

In a news release, Barnes & Noble says, “Working with Samsung on co-branded tablets will allow the Company to reduce its exposure to the substantial cost structure and other financial commitments that accompany ownership of the hardware production aspects of the NOOK tablet business. Going forward, the Company will be able to focus on its proven expertise in acquiring and delivering the best digital reading experience to grow NOOK content sales.”