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Barnes & Noble is struggling. Could Microsoft, which invested $300 million in the company’s Nook digital reader business last year, be the bookseller’s savior?

Barron’s got the rumor mill going over the weekend when it wrote that Microsoft’s ownership of the nation’s largest bookseller would “jump start” the company’s retail efforts by giving it 677 physical locations. Barnes & Noble’s stock jumped more than five percent on the news today, giving it a market value just under $1 billion. (Chump change for Microsoft for sure).

But the Motley Fool tosses cold water on the theory of Microsoft bidding for B&N (though it does point out that the software giant wasted far more on botched acquisitions like aQuantive).

Writes Rick Aristotle Munarriz:

Using the bookstores as a way to gain retail ground with Apple doesn’t make sense.

There’s no way that Microsoft could fill the cavernous Barnes & Noble stores, which also happen to be largely located in strip malls that lack the foot traffic of Apple’s smaller footprint in shopping malls. If Microsoft wanted that girth, it could’ve picked up Borders’ remnants for a pittance two years ago.

The last thing that Microsoft wants is an intimidating superstore concept. You can dream up a cool Xbox gaming lounge and areas devoted to different product categories that feast on Windows, but who is actually going to set foot inside a mammoth Microsoft Store?

What do you think? A potentially smart move by Microsoft? Or a waste of cash?

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