Later this year, possibly in October, Microsoft will release its Windows 8 operating system, which will work on both x86 hardware, as well as with ARM chips, allowing the company to enter the tablet market where the iPad dominates. However, the software giant has now scheduled a June 18 event in Los Angeles that is making everyone rethink the companys tablet strategy.
There is nothing official, but speculation is pointing toward a more immediate answer to the Apple iPad: a tablet running Microsoft hardware and software. In doing so, Microsoft may leapfrog its own Windows 8 announcement for later this year, with companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Toshiba and Asustek ready to offer tablets based on Windows 8.
Earlier this month, Microsoft made headlines by deciding to keep faltering smartphone-maker HTC out of its tablet party. This has led to some confusion about what Redmond has in mind for both Windows 8 and the tablet market as a whole.
The speculation about the Los Angeles event began when The New York Times reported June 15, citing people who asked not to be named, that for the first time in Microsofts 37-year history, the company is preparing to offer a computer of its own creation.
The device is aimed squarely at Apples iPad, the blockbuster touch-screen device that has begun to threaten Microsofts hegemony in the computer business, the Times reported.
Hollywood site The Wrap has likewise reported that an individual with knowledge of the company said that Microsoft would introduce a Microsoft-manufactured tablet at the event, marking a foray into a new hardware category that would put the company in direct competition with giant rival Apple.
Toms Guide emphasized that the Microsoft rumor isnt akin to Google branding an HTC- or Samsung-made smartphone as a Google phone, but that the tablet is expected to be designed from scratch by the Redmond company. That means, he continued, it will have control over all aspects of the device including hardware and additional software. The tablet may even be offered in both x86 and ARM-based varieties.
Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT, told eWEEK that such a tablet would be a logical extension of the company's reference architecture guidance for Windows 8 on ARM.
King added, Plus, I expect vendor interest in an ARM-based W8 tablet may be less than that around x86. By jumping into the pool, so to speak, Microsoft could help assuage any concerns its partners are voicing.
Tweaking the conversation, Mary-Jo Foley, at ZDNet, wrote June 14 that Microsoft brass have been hinting for more than a year at an e-reader inspired by Windows 8s Metro aesthetic.
They have never actually said such a device will run Windows 8 or even Windows on ARM/Windows RT, Foley wrote. That has led me and others to speculate whether a Microsoft tabletif such a device ever DID come to marketmight be a Windows Embedded or, more likely, a Windows Phone OS device.
If Microsofts big surprise is something more like the Kindle Fire than the iPad, she added, a Los Angeles launch might make sense.
Microsoft wont comment on the rumors, and its blog offered no hints about what it has in store for June 18. The blog did, however, share some news about one bit of hardware that the software-centric Microsoft does makethe Xbox 360. In its May posting, Microsoft stated that more Xbox 360 units sold than any other console or handheld gaming device, maintaining the Xbox 360s position as the best-selling console in the U.S. for the past 17 months.