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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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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.

"Spreading the rumors, it's very easy because the people who write about Apple want that story, and you can claim its credible because you spoke to someone at Apple." -- Investment guru Jim Cramer

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