Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is expected to introduce a number of tablet devices meant to-you guessed it-compete with the Apple iPad in the market that Microsoft first created in 2000 and that Apple revived and reinvented this year with the iPad.
Citing "people familiar with Microsoft's plans," The New York Times reported Dec. 13 that the big reveal is expected to occur at January's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and that the devices, which will run the Windows 7 operating system, will likely come from Samsung and Dell, among others.
The Samsung device is expected to be "-similar in size and shape to the Apple iPad, although it is not as thin,'" reported the Times, quoting its source. "-It also includes a unique and slick keyboard that slides out from below for easy typing.'" The tablet is also expected to "run the Windows 7 operating system when in landscape mode, but will also have a layered interface that will appear when the keyboard is hidden and the device is held in a portrait mode."
Another source told the Times that Ballmer may also show off a tablet running Windows 8, Microsoft's next OS, while a Microsoft employee told the paper that Microsoft is encouraging partners to build applications for the devices in the Web programming language HTML5. While Apple's App Store is beyond popular and packed with applications-a format that Google, Nokia, Research In Motion and others have worked to duplicate-the Times source said that Microsoft will instead "encourage software partners to host the applications on their own Websites, which will then be highlighted in a search interface on the devices."
Whether the applications will be in any state to show off at CES was unknown.
Samsung and Dell currently offer tablets running Google's Android operating system, and in early 2011, Hewlett-Packard and BlackBerry maker Research In Motion will also join the tablet market. Lesser-known brands such as Archos, Huawei and Haleron also have tablets running Android.
Research firm iSuppli expects 2010 to close with tablet shipments reaching 13.8 million units and rising to 63.3 million units by 2012.
In a Dec. 14 report, iSuppli also said it anticipates that converged devices such as the iPad and competing tablets will have "massive implications" for entire industries beyond consumer electronics, while mobile operating systems additionally gain in traction and importance.
"Even with Microsoft's stumbles to date in tablets," said the report, "iSuppli believes that Microsoft will figure out how to design a functional tablet operating system."
It added that Apple is likely to "evolve iOS and an iPad into a creation platform that is 100 percent compatible with the Windows-dominated PC universe."
The Apple iPad currently holds a 95.5 percent share of the global tablet market, according to a Nov. 2 report from Strategy Analytics, which reported growth of 26 percent in the market during the third quarter. The Android OS accounted for a 2.9 percent share of the third-quarter tablet market, which was up from 2.3 percent the quarter before.
"The tablet wars are up and running," Strategy Analytics analyst Neil Mawston said in a statement. "Android, Microsoft, MeeGo, WebOS, BlackBerry and other platforms are trailing in Apple's wake and they already have much ground to make up."