Microsoft’s been pushing tablet computers for the best part of a decade, so you can imagine how happy the iPad’s success makes them.
But Microsoft doesn’t give up easily, and Windows 8 tablets are apparently imminent.
So what’s Steve Ballmer going to be shouting about when he shows them off?
Windows 8 tablets’ release date
In December 2011, the New York Times wrote that Microsoft would unveil tablets running Windows 8 at CES 2011 in January.
The NYT credited an unnamed source for the leak, which suggests that Microsoft’s keynote will be enlivened by the arrival of the next generation of Windows, as well as Samsung and Dell tablets. As it turned out, no Windows 8 tablets were shown at the show.
However, the Windows 8 release date may be sooner than you think, with a beta in summer 2011. That means Windows 8 tablets could be out by early 2012.
UPDATE: According to Bloomberg there will be no Windows for tablets until 2012. As we reported on 4 March 2011, sources told Bloomberg that a tablet-friendly version of Windows will be tested at the end of this year and not released until the summer of 2012.
UPDATE: RCR Unplugged is reporting that on 1 June 2011, Microsoft’s corporate vice-president Steve Guggenheimer will take to the stage at the Computex trade show to give a first look at Windows 8 running on tablets. This news follows an earlier report by Business Insider which said that Microsoft is planning to show off Windows 8 on tablets by the end of its fiscal year in June.
Windows 8 tablets manufacturers
It’s no surprise to see the names Dell and Samsung in the NYT piece: both firms have close relationships with Microsoft, although it’s interesting to see Microsoft getting groovy with an Android tablet manufacturer. We’d expect to see something like the leaked “Lap PC” from HP too.
UPDATE: On 9 May 2011, we reported on a rumour of a forthcoming Nokia Windows 8 tablet. The info comes from phone commentator Eldar Murtazin, who wrote on the Mobile Review forum that Nokia will launch a tablet in 2012, possibly pushed back to 2013.
Windows 8 tablets will probably look like iPads
While Dell makes some unusually shaped tablets already, the Samsung tablet is “similar in size and shape to the Apple iPad, although it is not as thin.” Unlike the iPad, “it also includes a unique and slick keyboard that slides out from below for easy typing.”
Windows 8 tablets will be designed for business use
“The company believes there is a huge market for business people who want to enjoy a slate for reading newspapers and magazines and then work on Microsoft Word, Excel or PowerPoint while doing work,” the NYT says, quoting the inevitable “person familiar with the company’s tablet plans”.
Windows 8 tablets will have a new touch interface
Engadget says: “We’ve heard from numerous sources that Microsoft’s real tablet strategy will rely on Windows 8 and a new all-touch interface that the company has been working incredibly hard on.”
Windows 8 tablets will have apps and an app store
Perhaps acknowledging that Windows 7 wasn’t designed with fat fingers in mind, the tablets Ballmer shows off at CES will be powered by Windows but will have an additional layer for HTML5 web apps. This layer will pop up when the tablet is in portrait mode and the keyboard hidden.
Apps are a big part of Windows 8, with Microsoft convinced that “app development will move to the web” and building a Windows Store with manufacturer-specific entrances. Microsoft doesn’t plan to make money from the Store; like Apple, it’s all about selling more machines.
Windows 8 tablet specifications aren’t strange or startling
We’d expect Windows 8 tablets to have similar specifications to other iPad rivals such as the Galaxy Tab or BlackBerry Playbook, essentially netbooks in a different form factor: a gigahertz processor, a gigabyte of RAM, 802.11b/g/n wireless and multitouch capacitive displays. Expect lots of connectivity too, with USB ports a key selling point.
Windows 8 tablet prices should be similar to Android ones
Windows 8 tablets will be up against iPads, Android tablets and Chrome OS netbooks, so if they’re not priced very aggressively they’re going to be a tough sell.