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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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By rs1 on 3/5/2011 7:09:50 AM , Rating: 5
Apple has also yet to release a "dedicated tablet OS" as well, or even to specify a timetable for such a release. iOS is not a tablet OS, it is a phone OS that can run on a tablet, which is why the iPad basically behaves like an oversized iPhone, and why it's stuck using the same underpowered hardware internally.

What Microsoft is basically saying here is that unlike other players (iOS, Android, etc.) they are not content to merely scale their phone OS up to run on tablets and are instead designing an OS that is custom-built for the purpose. A "tablet-friendly" phone OS is not a dedicated tablet OS, and I'm sure if MS wanted to they could have simply scaled up WP7 like everyone else did.

But they decided to go a different route, and I don't see how you can fault them for being "late" to deliver a product that no other company has delivered yet either. If what they produce is truly a dedicated tablet OS, then they will be the first company to have produced such a thing. Are they late to the tablet party? Yes. But they're also not bringing the same thing to the party as everyone else, either.

RE: Clarification
By Zingam on 3/5/2011 7:58:57 AM , Rating: 1
Why don't you just say it that Microsoft is content to upscale their 64kb DOS OS from 500 years ago from everything upto severs and phones?

Come on! Microsoft is crap, they were crap, they are crap and they'll be crap!
They are just like Coca Cola which sells basically sugar water and make billions - a totally worthless product but people a dumb enough to pay money for it. Well, water costs 1000 times less.

RE: Clarification
By rs1 on 3/5/2011 9:29:43 AM , Rating: 5
They are just like Coca Cola which sells basically sugar water and make billions - a totally worthless product but people a dumb enough to pay money for it.

Actually, I think you just did a pretty good job of describing Apple's business model there...take a mediocre product, hype it until people start believing that it's the "next big thing", toss in a few steeply overpriced accessories (docks, covers, etc.) for good measure, and watch the money roll in.

RE: Clarification
By snakeInTheGrass on 3/5/2011 11:28:20 PM , Rating: 2
It's not a phone or tablet OS - it's a slightly reduced version of the normal OSX kernel (and it's been getting back more of the missing bits over the past few years), which - given that it ran on less powerful hardware back in 1988, may not come as a shock that it runs well now too. The sad thing is that it was 23 years ahead of Windows back then, and it's still better. But don't confuse the OS with the UI - and there, both the phone and the tablet have a touch UI, but very different guidelines on how to optimize an app for them.

Microsoft is basically saying that they have no idea what they're doing - they've tried to push a keyboard-less laptop as a 'tablet' OS forever (wait - don't forget the stylus for your dropdown/popup menus!), have failed miserably, and while you may remain excited to see how they'll screw the pooch on their next tablet, everyone else is tired of waiting and has moved on to things that actually work.

Are they late to the party? Oh yes. But look, when they plan to show up to the party late bringing Windows on ARM - so, Windows minus the apps (since they claim to plan no x86 support to run all that legacy code - and it's that legacy code that makes the current Windows such an internally bloated system), what you have is... nothing. Very compelling indeed. No, wait, that's not their tablet plan, that plan is... certain to be WP7 scaled up. Take your pick, this is Ballmer's Microsoft, dysfunctional and ready to roll!

"I modded down, down, down, and the flames went higher." -- Sven Olsen

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