Microsoft is apparently planning to manufacture its own brand of Windows 8 tablet, according to a new report.
Citing unnamed “sources from the upstream supply chain,” the publication DigiTimes suggested in a June 8 article that Microsoft will collaborate on the branded tablet with Texas Instruments and a variety of Taiwanese manufacturing partners.
“Xbox 360 is currently the only own-brand product line that Microsoft has achieved success,” it added, “while Zune media player, Kin smartphone and own-brand TVs all had unsatisfactory performance.”
In recent demonstrations at the 2011 Computex conference in Taiwan and the D:All Things Digital Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., Microsoft whipped the curtain back from the next generation Windows, which the company internally refers to as “Windows 8.” In place of the “traditional” Windows interface, with a desktop and Start button, Windows 8 offers a set of colorful tiles that open applications-a design that draws many of its visual cues from Windows Phone, Microsoft’s latest smartphone operating system.
Windows 8 is designed to work on form-factors ranging from desktops and laptops to tablets. In theory, this will allow Microsoft to not only preserve its substantial market-share in the realm of traditional operating systems, but also make inroads into the burgeoning consumer-tablet market currently dominated by Apple’s iPad.
Indeed, in order to facilitate Windows 8’s appearance on tablets, Microsoft is designing the operating system to support SoC (system-on-a-chip) architecture, in particular ARM-based systems from partners such as Qualcomm, Nvidia and Texas Instruments. ARM architecture powers the lion’s share of mobile devices on the market today.
At the same time, Microsoft is apparently keen on keeping its tablet manufacturing partners on a tight leash. According to a June 1 article in The Wall Street Journal, itself based on discussions with unnamed “people familiar with the matter,” the company wants five chip-makers to pair with a single tablet manufacturer. The chip makers include Intel, Advanced Micro Devices, Nvidia, Texas Instruments and Qualcomm, who would eventually be allowed to expand beyond that single partner.
Should that bit of rumor end up confirmed, it would suggest that Microsoft is continuing in its attempts to keep its mobile devices from fragmenting into a bewildering array of different hardware and software options-something the company claims will ultimately harm its arch-rival Google’s Android franchise of smartphones and tablets.
Microsoft also learned from painful lessons in fragmentation from its experiences with Windows Mobile, its previous mobile-device franchise. When it came time to design Windows Phone, Microsoft kept its hardware partners to a strict set of minimum hardware requirements, including a 5-megapixel camera and 1GHz processor.
If Microsoft does manufacture its own tablet outside of its alliances with manufacturing partners, it would be taking inspiration from Apple, which exerts tight control over manufacture of the iPad’s hardware and software.