SEATTLE -- Microsoft Corp. and Barnes & Noble Inc. plan to develop and market electronic books using Microsoft's new "ClearType" technology.
Barnes & Noble's bookstores, along with the barnesandnoble.com Web site, will begin offering e-books starting in the middle of next year, according to Barnes & Noble vice chairman Steve Riggio.
By that time, the Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft will have included its Microsoft Reader software, under development for more than a year, in most of its operating systems, including systems that run WebTV and a new series of palm-size computing devices due out in the next several months.
"This technology is revolutionary," said Dick Brass, Microsoft vice president of technology development, during a press conference this morning at the 2000 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. "But without a good vendor, a retailer to bring this technology to consumers in both the retail stores and online, our reading technology is not enough."
The New York-based Barnes & Noble, for its part, will market the Microsoft Reader e-books aggressively, both in stores and online.
"We're going to hit them over the head with this thing," Riggio said.
For example, major book releases could have entire chapters available for preview online, Riggio said, giving Internet users the feeling of browsing a bookstore and reading a few pages.
Electronic books have met with little success in the consumer markets, though has made some inroads among businesses, where a number of technical manuals, training texts and business documents are sometimes distributed in electronic format.
In addition to providing Microsoft Reader software with its Windows 98 and Windows 2000 operating systems, Microsoft will also include it with its new series of handheld computers, dubbed the Pocket PC by chairman Bill Gates in his Wednesday night keynote speech to the electronics show.
"When it comes to the Pocket PC, the Barnes & Noble agreement will be great for consumers," said Craig Mundie, senior vice president of consumer strategy at Microsoft. "The Pocket PC will let people bring a number of books with them wherever they go in this portable, easy-to-carry form."
In addition to Microsoft Reader, the Pocket PC will also include a Windows Media Player for playing videos and for listening to digital music in either Windows Media or the popular MP3 digital formats.
The Pocket PC will run on a newly streamlined version of Microsoft's Windows CE operating system. Microsoft hopes the new Pocket PCs will help it gain a larger share of the personal digital assistant, or PDA, market, currently dominated by Palm Computing's line of handheld devices.
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