Microsoft hearts Barnes and Noble

Rumors swirling around Microsoft's mystery event on Monday have repeatedly centered on a tablet, but if TechCrunch sources are right, Microsoft may only play a partial role in the project. The unveiling, according to the claims, may instead be a tablet, e-reader or a crossover of the two built in teamwork with Barnes & Noble -- a company that just recently established a vague partnership with Microsoft after many months of legal wrangling over Android and the Nook. The slate may not include Windows 8 RT at all, despite earlier assertions, but that's not to say that Microsoft wouldn't be breaking ground in other areas. One of the reported insiders believes it could be the first device without the Microsoft badge to get Xbox Live video streaming, which might explain Redmond's eagerness to turn Xbox into a general media brand at its E3 keynote. It's still very much unknown if there will be any hardware at all, although decisions to host the event in the media capital of Los Angeles and detach the invitation from any existing Microsoft division provide at least indirect support for the notion. Whatever happens, we'll be there tomorrow to give you the lowdown.

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