Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is predicting that his company will have an iPad competitor on the market by the end of 2010.
"You'll see new slates with Windows on them. You'll see them this Christmas," Ballmer told an audience Oct. 5 at the London School of Economics, according to Reuters. "Certainly we have done work around the tablet as both a productivity device and a consumption device."
That echoes Ballmer's September comments to The Seattle Times, in which he alluded to a "Windows 7 slate shipped today" and mentioned that similar devices would hit the marketplace "at Christmas, we'll see some after Christmas, and all through the next year."
A few weeks ago, video leaked online of a purported Hewlett-Packard tablet running Windows 7. HP is supposedly developing a Windows-based tablet for the enterprise, in addition to a Palm WebOS version targeted at consumers. However, Ballmer's recent quotes don't mention a manufacturer for the potential tablet.
Microsoft could face something of an uphill battle when it comes to creating a Windows install base for the rapidly expanding consumer tablet market. Some of the company's largest manufacturing partners, including Dell and Samsung, have announced their intention to create tablets running Google Android. In addition to HP, Research In Motion is planning a tablet with a proprietary operating system. And the Apple iPad, responsible in large part for creating interest in the tablet form factor, continues to sell at a blockbuster rate.
Microsoft also seems increasingly aware of its somewhat precarious position. During the company's July Worldwide Partner Conference, in Washington, various executives highlighted the company's plans for both tablets and smartphones.
"This is a terribly important area to us," Ballmer told an audience during his July 12 keynote at the conference, referring to both tablets and Windows Phone 7 devices. "We need to push this from a Microsoft perspective: We want to give you a great consumer-oriented experience, a device that is manageable with today's IT solutions."
Within the next several months, Ballmer promised at the time, "You will see a range of Windows 7 slates. They will run Windows 7. They will run Office. They will accept ink- as well as touch-based input."
Even as Microsoft supposedly prepares tablets for launch, the company is also focused on launching Windows Phone 7, its smartphone platform scheduled to debut Oct. 11 in New York. Microsoft's Mobile franchise has steadily lost market share over the past several quarters, putting pressure on the company to succeed in its latest endeavor.
"The job right now is we've got to get back seriously into the game of phones," Ballmer also said during his London School of Economics visit. "We've got to have a comeback against the competition and I think with our new Windows phones we really have a beautiful product."