Microsoft may show off an interface for its Windows 8 tablet operating system as early as June, according to a report in Business Insider, citing a source at Microsoft.
The source added, according to the site's Feb. 28 report, that "Microsoft is taking a more Apple-like approach to interface design this time around, and will also be using concepts from the 'Metro' interface developed for Windows Phone 7."
The June timeframe marks the end Microsoft's 2011 fiscal year, and-if it arrives early-the announcement could coincide with the Computex Taipei trade show, which takes place May 31 through June 4.
The prediction also isn't far off the Microsoft road map-also shared by an unnamed source-that ZDNet's Mary-Jo Foley showed off earlier this month. The map shows coding for Microsoft's Milestone 3 (M3) to begin Feb. 28, which could give it a completion date toward the end of July.
"Factor in a month or so for any kind of private Community Technology Preview (CTP) testing, and a beta around the time of this year's Professional Developers Conference-which I'm still hearing is slated for September 2011-looks downright doable," wrote Foley.
In the face of Apple's wildly successful iPad, and the hundreds of competing products that have sprung up around it, Microsoft is surely anxious to join a market that competitors Samsung, Hewlett-Packard, Research In Motion and Motorola, among others, are beating it to. While by all accounts the tablet market is headed skyward, a Feb. 16 report from financial services firm Morgan Stanley suggested that it is nonetheless being underestimated and that unit shipments will reach 100 million in 2012, up from 2010's 16 million units.
By contrast, research firm IDC, in a Jan. 18 report, forecast shipments to reach 44.6 million in 2011 and climb to 70.8 million in 2012.
Again citing a source at Microsoft, Business Insider reported Feb. 18 that Microsoft, well aware that it's missing the tablet boom, has "around 1,000 engineers working on making Windows run smoothly on ARM chip designs. And it is in fact taking the tablet market very seriously."
Microsoft also has a new hardware partner in Nokia. On Feb. 11, at a joint press conference in London, the pair announced their intentions to create a "new global mobile ecosystem" and to closely collaborate on a shared road map and the "future evolution of mobile products."
Nokia explained that Microsoft's Windows Phone platform will be its new priority, ahead of MeeGo, which it was developing with Intel, and its own Symbian OS. And as part of the new partnership, Nokia said, it will contribute its hardware expertise toward helping to bring the Microsoft OS to a greater variety of price points, market segments and markets worldwide.
"Nokia and Microsoft plan to work together to integrate key assets and create completely new service offerings, while extending established products and services to new markets," Microsoft said in a statement at the time.