Microsoft, Barnes & Noble to create eBook superstore

Microsoft Corporation's promise of easy-to-read eBooks is finally happening, as the company announced Wednesday two promising new developments. Microsoft unveiled the first pocket-sized eBook to use its ClearType technology at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2000 in Las Vegas. The device features Microsoft Reader, with which an eBook display can, for the first time, approach and even surpass the quality of text on a printed page. Pocket PCs, which will be available in the first half of 2000 from a variety of manufacturers, are based on a new version of Windows CE, which has dropped the "CE" moniker. They feature a vastly simplified user interface that does away with a many of the Windows kludges that dogged earlier CE devices.

"With Reader software, consumers really will be able to carry a library in their pocket," said Dick Brass, vice president of Technology Development at Microsoft. "A typical Pocket PC will be able to store hundreds of books, from today's latest titles to long-revered literary classics."

But the announcement of new hardware would mean nothing without a compelling software library and Microsoft is teaming with bookseller Barnes & Noble to offer an "eBook superstore" on the B&N Web site that will make thousands of titles available to eBook users by mid-year.

"We believe that portable electronic reading devices, and the wireless technology that allows the instant delivery of text to them, will further expand the marketplace for books and other content," said Steve Riggio, vice chairman of Barnes & Noble Inc. "The ability to easily download and carry thousands of pages of information anywhere at any time will appeal to readers of all kinds, from mobile professionals to students and vacationers."

Microsoft's ClearType technology, first unveiled over a year ago at Fall Comdex 1998, triples the resolution of LCD displays, offering an unparalleled way to read text and black and white graphics. Microsoft will offer its Reader software--the first to implement ClearType--for all versions of Windows sometime this year. So a Windows 2000 user with a laptop, for example, will be able to read eBooks without having a Pocket PC device

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