While the future of Barnes & Noble's bookstores may be uncertain, the company has helped to ensure its place in the e-reader marketplace by partnering with Microsoft. Microsoft is investing $300 million in Barnes & Noble's Nook digital book business (full article).
"As part of the move, there will be a Nook application included in the new Windows 8, which is scheduled to have a release preview in early June. Later this year, computers and tablets with Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system are expected to go on sale."
This is a complete 180 in Microsoft and B&N's relationship. Previously, Microsoft had sued B&N over patent infringement with regards to the Nook. As B&N is such a smaller company, some have argued that Microsoft was in fact trying to bully its way into the ebook marketplace.
Whatever the truth may be, this is a win-win relationship for both companies. Microsoft gains access to the e-reader and tablet market via ebooks, after giving Apple and Amazon quite the head start (par for the course with Microsoft: see videogame consoles, internet browsers, etc.). Meanwhile B&N gets a much needed shot in the arm to help it compete with Amazon and Apple. Besides giving B&N access to its deep pockets, Microsoft offers access to its technological base. If this goes well, I wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft bought the whole company and either shut down B&N's brick and mortar business or revamped them entirely to mirror Apple stores.