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Microsoft will be releasing Windows 7 tablets this year, but its dedicated tablet build of Windows 7 reportedly won't land until next year.  (Source: Microsoft)
Microsoft looks to arrive VERY late to the tablet game

According to Bloomberg, sources at Microsoft state that the company will be making a very late tablet push, unveiling a dedicated tablet operating system sometime next year (2012).

With Apple announcing its entry-level priced iPad 2 and with a host of Android competitors like Samsung and Motorola releasing higher-powered, more expensive entries, the tablet market is on fire.  The competition is particularly fierce on the operating system side where Apple has poured a great deal of effort to make iOS better suited for a large-screen device.  Similarly Google has put tremendous effort to complete Android 3.0 Honeycomb, which overhauls the past Android UI and makes it truly tablet-friendly.  Even HP's webOS and RIM are looking to get a piece of the tablet business

Microsoft, meanwhile stands watching on the sidelines.  While it will release some Windows 7-based tablets this year, the outlook for them is somewhat poor.  They require Intel x86 processors, and the chipmaker has struggled to deliver energy efficient Atom chips for tablets.  Another trouble spot is the Windows 7 OS itself.  The operating system isn't exactly optimized for a tablet experience, and with dedicated competitors like iOS 4.3 and Android Honeycomb 3.0 on the market, that could seriously stall sales.

Bloomberg quoted Michael Gartenberg, a New Jersey-based analyst, as meeting the news with pessimism, stating, "If 2011 is the year of the tablet wars, Microsoft will be awfully late suiting up for that battle."

And he's not alone; Goldman Sachs was scathing in a recent assessment of Microsoft and Intel's combined tablet efforts.

Then again, a late entry may not spell doom for Microsoft's tablet efforts.  Its other key mobile offering -- smartphones -- looked like a mess after the downhill slide of Windows Mobile and the abysmal failure of Kin.  But by going back to the drawing board and taking the time to reinvent, the company has delivered arguably the most innovative smart phone user interface currently available.  And with a new partnership with Nokia in hand, Microsoft could pass Apple to become the world's second largest smartphone OS maker in terms of sales if it plays its cards right.

The one worrisome sign is that Microsoft is reportedly choosing to build on top of Windows 7, adding more touch features.  While Windows 7 is arguably a great personal computer OS the question is whether even a modified version will be up to speed on tablets.  While such an approach is a quicker and easier, many were hoping the company would port the Windows Phone 7/Zune operating system to a tablet, given its more touch-centric UI.  To Microsoft's credit, many users -- including DailyTech readers -- have clamored for Windows 7-tablets.

Interestingly, Microsoft appears to be preparing to follow a similar approach that Google is following with its upcoming Chrome netbook/notebook OS, giving out test units to commercial partners and the public.  Microsoft will reportedly begin distributing device with test builds of the new OS before the end of the year.

It is unclear whether current generation Windows 7 tablets releasing this year will be upgradeable to the new OS next year, but this presumably would be the case, if hardware makers cooperate.

According to reports [1] [2] by In-Stat, the tablet business will be booming over the next several years, and will, in part, cannibalize PC sales.  In-Stat predicts over 100 new designs from Apple, Android makers (Motorola, Samsung, HTC, Sony-Ericcson, Archos, etc.), RIM, HP (webOS), MeeGo tablet makers (no major named partners), and Windows tablet makers (Dell, Lenovo, etc.) to enter the market this year.  And it predicts sales by 2014 to rise to 58 million units and by 2015 to 118 million units. 

Microsoft is also reportedly preparing its next generation version of Windows, which will support ARM CPUs for notebooks, Windows 8.



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Hope they get rid of legacy support
By GiantPandaMan on 3/4/2011 12:37:21 PM , Rating: 2
Since tablets won't have any of the legacy hardware that PC's can have, I hope Microsoft gets rid of all support for it in their tablet OS. That alone would streamline it quite a bit. After all, it won't need support for floppy drives, IDE, BIOS, dial up modems and all that other crap that Win7 still works with.

Heck, I'm interested in seeing how much quicker and smaller a windows install will be without all that crap mucking it up.




RE: Hope they get rid of legacy support
By XZerg on 3/4/11, Rating: 0
RE: Hope they get rid of legacy support
By Gungel on 3/4/2011 12:53:48 PM , Rating: 4
I stopped reading your comment after this M$.


RE: Hope they get rid of legacy support
By Taft12 on 3/4/11, Rating: -1
By XZerg on 3/4/2011 1:23:18 PM , Rating: 1
M"$" to me is more of a way to say a Microsoft is still filthy rich, not in a negative way. It will still continue to be so for a long time to come.


By kleinma on 3/4/2011 1:24:00 PM , Rating: 5
And apple is simply an unconvicted monopoly abuser...


RE: Hope they get rid of legacy support
By omnicronx on 3/4/2011 1:51:28 PM , Rating: 5
I disagree, I think the M$ abbreviation is more or less a reminder that parents should not let their children go on the internet let a lone a blog site without adult supervision.


RE: Hope they get rid of legacy support
By p05esto on 3/5/2011 1:27:08 PM , Rating: 1
Microsoft is our friend...imagine if we were stuck on Apple products - I would give up caring about computers. Apple is the friend of people who know NOTHING about computers, Microsoft makes everything else possible for the rest of us. Build your own PC? Not really with the Mac.

M$ is childishness talk, grow up.


RE: Hope they get rid of legacy support
By spread on 3/5/2011 3:34:31 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Microsoft is our friend...imagine if we were stuck on Apple products


You don't like hockey-puck mice, dingy yellow screens and updates you have to pay for?


RE: Hope they get rid of legacy support
By tayb on 3/6/2011 2:14:31 PM , Rating: 1
Updates you have to pay for? Please. It cost me $30 to upgrade from Leopard to Snow Leopard. Going from Vista to 7 will run you at least $100.


By Smilin on 3/7/2011 4:39:07 PM , Rating: 2
$30?? The Windows 7 service pack was free.


By bigboxes on 3/6/2011 11:43:01 AM , Rating: 3
I see nothing wrong with his post. I occasionally use M$ at times and I love Win7. The OP wasn't derogatory towards Microsoft in the least. Maybe those telling the OP to grow should grow up. :p


RE: Hope they get rid of legacy support
By Flunk on 3/4/2011 1:11:25 PM , Rating: 2
That's completely ridiculous. Microsoft can make software that runs on any available hardware they like. This could mean only supporting ARM processors and NAND Flash.

Considering the Windows is more modular than ever it's going to be interesting to see what hardware the final product does support.


RE: Hope they get rid of legacy support
By Justin Time on 3/4/2011 3:47:28 PM , Rating: 3
Yes, MS could easily port Windows to ARM (or anything else for that matter) as NT was designed from the outset to be portable - and it has previously run on a variety of hardware platforms.

However, applications are a different matter... and MS know all too well that this is an issue for them.

Windows apps (oops... there's that word) are predominantly x86 developed/compiled, and MS will have a tough time convincing most OEMs to develop a separate version... meaning that they would be starting their tablet fight from scratch, with no existing app base to leverage.

MS need Intel to help them out of this, if they want to move Windows to a tablet and be competitive... so perhaps MS have an inside line on Intel's 2012 roadmap ?


RE: Hope they get rid of legacy support
By omnicronx on 3/4/2011 4:18:16 PM , Rating: 3
.NET in particular is not platform specific. It can be compiled to X86 or ARM if needs be, meaning porting over an application could be as simple as a recompile. So its not as much of a problem as you are stating, especially for newer software.

Thats the entire point of .NET, which can especially be leveraged if the core OS remains the same. In many cases you would not need to keep a separate code base at all.


RE: Hope they get rid of legacy support
By Justin Time on 3/5/2011 12:24:24 AM , Rating: 2
And exactly how many existing Windows applications are written in managed code using .Net ??

It's a HUGE problem, as the overwhelming majority of the existing application base is written in native x86 code, developed using unmanaged source such as C++.

Not even MS are willing to re-write something like Office in .Net, so don't be expecting OEMs to be in a rush to do it.


By Spivonious on 3/5/2011 3:58:30 PM , Rating: 2
A lot more than you'd think actually, especially in the business world.


By KoolAidMan1 on 3/5/2011 12:33:39 AM , Rating: 1
I reckon that Microsoft will either place serious baseline restrictions and guidelines on hardware like they did with Windows Phone 7, or they will manufacture the hardware themselves as they did with the XBox 360 or the ZuneHD.

Both scenarios are preferable to having OEMs run crazy with their own hardware platforms and configurations. Mobile and closed-end devices seem to benefit from a baseline level of control. Windows Phone 7 toed that line between control and interface diversity pretty well. There is a baseline level of minimum hardware requirements and there is a common resolution for the LCD, while at the same time they allow for both touch and keyboard interfaces. This allows for a common user experience no matter what the hardware, and it allows for developers to target a much narrower range of hardware and display resolutions than they have to with something like Android.

If Microsoft allows hardware OEMs total control in the same "poor parenting" approach that Google does with Android (numerous display resolutions, varying levels of horsepower, varying levels of chassis and display quality), I think they will have a very difficult time enforcing a base level of quality user experience, thereby dragging down the reputation of Windows tablets.

Based on how much control they have over Windows Phone 7, and how much more control they have over the XBox and the ZuneHD, I believe that this is the direction Microsoft will go with their tablets. Windows Phone 7 is a fine product, and Microsoft would be foolish to let outside hardware companies screw up their tablet platform without some strict parenting. We'll see.


RE: Hope they get rid of legacy support
By omnicronx on 3/4/2011 1:34:20 PM , Rating: 2
Would not surprise me if that is what they are doing. The 2012 date gives me the feeling this is no coincidence either. Perhaps having the ability to leverage the supposedly cloud based architecture of Windows 8. (would be a great idea to have a tablet based OS that could leverage legacy applications through the cloud).


RE: Hope they get rid of legacy support
By Da W on 3/4/2011 2:33:59 PM , Rating: 2
Despite being late, Microsoft acknowledge that tablets will canibalize PC sales, but they don't want them to canibalize Windows sales. That's the whole point of that gamble. Windows will run on ARM and x86, include modules with or without legacy support etc. BUT your software will run on Windows, developped in C# using Microsoft visual studio. That's what they want.

And with 15M iPad sold in 2010, even if they sell 60M tablets in 2011 and another 60M by mid 2012 when the first windows 8 tablet hits the market, there will still be a 2-3billion untapped PC user market left. It's not all lost.


RE: Hope they get rid of legacy support
By omnicronx on 3/4/2011 2:40:42 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
And with 15M iPad sold in 2010, even if they sell 60M tablets in 2011 and another 60M by mid 2012 when the first windows 8 tablet hits the market, there will still be a 2-3billion untapped PC user market left. It's not all lost.
Exactly, I also think people seem to forget the reasons why the OEM approach is far more scalable than making your own hardware.

Its just not possible to maintain capacity in a market growing this fast all on your own.(not by a longshot)

If Tablets are truly going to canabalize the PC market, its not going to be by a single hardware vendor.

As you stated, the market potential is not even been close to being tapped.

Now of course I'm not saying MS will be the one to fill that void, I'm merely commenting on the strengths of the OEM approach.

It happened with the PC, it happened with smartphones and Android, and its going to happen again with Tablets. Its all just a matter of time.


By therealnickdanger on 3/4/2011 2:56:00 PM , Rating: 2
You are both so right.

Also, I think that Microsoft's late arrival to the party will be offset by Windows 8's very powerful UI. I don't know for certain that it will be powerful, but assume that they are able to blend the power of Windows 7 with the "approachableness" of Android or WP7. Just as Apple is trying to steer tablet users toward content creation with the iPad 2, so Microsoft could bring the entire PC world of applications and productivity into the simpler tablet market. If they succeed, then they will have no trouble selling Win8 tabs... they will reinvent the market.

That's best case scenario.


By Aloonatic on 3/6/2011 6:17:42 AM , Rating: 2
I can't say that tablets will cannibalise the PC market, they just seem to offer a more specific alternative for people who want relatively simple and low power yet portable computing.

As for MS's approach, and Win8 being able to run on ARM, it just seems that they have recognised that there will be a lot of hardware out there with ARM and x86 processors, so they might as well make an OS that can run on both.

It'll be interesting to see how well Win8 works on low power devices, if that's what they want. How long, after it is released, will it take until someone gets Win8 running on an iPad, somehow?


RE: Hope they get rid of legacy support
By Mitch101 on 3/4/2011 1:40:23 PM , Rating: 2
For a guesstimate I might reference the original X-Box specs and Doom 3 requirements of a PC although GPU's in portable devices today probably have a lot more oomph in them.

The PC Version Requirements for Doom 3
* A 1.5 GHz Intel Pentium 4 chip or AMD Athlon 1500
* 384 MB RAM
* 2 GB hard disk space
* An nVidia GeForce 3 graphics card or better; or an ATI Technologies 8500 or better

X-Box 1
64megs of ram
733mhz processor
8Gig hard drive

Im Amazed they were able to do so much with 64megs of ram.

When I think of all the things I was able to do on my original X-Box its pretty much in line with tablets today.


By tekzor on 3/4/2011 1:50:38 PM , Rating: 2
you forgot to mention that a PC is running multiple programs in addition to your game which will require more processing power. Oh and you can chose the resolution you play at,therefore, the developers have to expand their programming to cover all ranges.

While for a game system, you run 1 main process at a set resolution. It is easy to see how DOOM3 ran on low end hardware.


By omnicronx on 3/4/2011 1:57:19 PM , Rating: 2
Its not that amazing, general purpose computing will always be less efficient, but it also has far greater scalability and applicability.

You can always get more performance out of a dedicated piece of hardware that houses dedicated components that are meant for specific tasks.

This holds true even for the PC, we have graphics cards, dedicated video decoders and such for this very reason.

I.e Pretty much every manufacturer is constrained by this and is not limited to the PC but general purpose computing in general.


By KoolAidMan1 on 3/5/2011 12:38:02 AM , Rating: 2
That's what happens with focused hardware and software that is written specifically towards them. Nothing special, that's just how it is. God Of War 2 looks amazing, yet it runs on hardware from 2000. Again, a different approach, and one that is partly based on hacky workarounds on both a hardware and software level to make it happen. Nothing wrong with it, that's just how it is.

Generalized platforms like PCs are more about throwing brute force at a problem. It may not be as efficient a solution, but it also has a much much higher ceiling in terms of fidelity and performance.


By Shadowmaster625 on 3/7/2011 8:26:40 AM , Rating: 2
DOS and IDE support arent what use up space in windows. Removing all legacy hardware support still leaves windows with a huge WinSxS folder. However, there are many people figuring out how to "VLite" their windows 7 to fit onto 4GB CF cards. I just read one where they did it in 2.5GB. And now there is Se7en Lite, so we should see steady improvement. 3 years ago I was making Windows XP fit onto 600MB of hard disk without any problems. 7 should eventually be cut down to around 2GB. Kill off all the unwanted services, and you have a very lean and mean operating system. Sometimes I wonder if people are aware that they have near total control of what runs under windows....


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