Microsoft is getting ready to show a new Windows-based tablet. The software giant is expected to show a device running a tablet-optimized version of Windows, called Windows 8, at a developer conference in Anaheim, Calif., next week.
In 2010, Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer showed a Hewlett-Packard tablet running Windows at the Consumer Electronics Show, but that product never made it to a mass release. Way back in 2001, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates showed an early Windows tablet.
This time, according to a report in the Korea Economic Daily, Windows chief Steven Sinofsky is expected to do the honors, using a Samsung-made device. Neither Microsoft nor Samsung have yet confirmed the report.
12 Months Away
Windows 8 will be the first version of that operating system designed to run on ARM processors, which are widely used in tablets and other mobile devices. According to some reports on the Web, the tablet will actually be a quad-core ARM, and every person attending the Microsoft BUILD developers conference will receive a free tablet.
Microsoft has said that Windows 8 will be able to run all applications that the desktop Windows can, which would give it a leg up on Apple's division between its iOS mobile and OS X desktop/laptop operating systems. Some observers also expect that Windows 8 will be able to run all apps built for the company's Windows Phone 7 mobile platform.
But the company appears to be a long ways off from actually releasing a Windows tablet, as the new device is not expected to be on the market for at least 12 months. By the time the Windows 8 tablet is released, the category could largely be owned by Apple and Amazon.
And Then There's Amazon
The dominance of Apple's iPad in the category it virtually created is expected to be challenged, within a few weeks, by one or possibly two inexpensive, Android-based tablets from Amazon, which has had success with its Kindle and which has a huge inventory of content to feed to its mobile devices.
Industry rumors indicate that the tablet could be priced at $250, a direct challenge to the iPad's starting price of $499, and that the device, featuring a 7-inch display, will launch in November. A 10-inch version, with a more powerful processor, could follow in early 2012.
As Amazon gears up its tablet effort, a wave of other $200 to $300 tablets are also populating the marketplace. Lenovo's new IdeaPad Tablet A1 starts at $199, Samsung's original Galaxy Tab is now $279, and Barnes & Noble's 7-inch Nook Color e-book reader/tablet is $249.
Some industry observers expect Amazon to sell its low-cost tablet models at a loss so that it can make money on providing content. According to Forrester Research, an Amazon tablet could sell 3 million to 5 million units in the fourth quarter, which would catapult it into being the key competitor to the iPad.