Friday, 27 May 2011

Microsoft to Show Windows 8 Tablets; Asian OEMs Most Likely Partners

Microsoft Windows 8

Microsoft reportedly will demonstrate its Windows 8 tablet operating system next week, according to a report.

Bloomberg reported Thursday that the software company will address both the AllThingsD conference next week as well as the Computex show in Taipei.

Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer said Monday that Windows 8 would be coming out in 2012. Microsoft later retracted the statements, leading to the possibility that perhaps Microsoft intended to launch Windows 8 next year, but may in fact issue a point release or a dedicated tablet version of the OS.

Speaking at a Microsoft Developer Forum in Tokyo on Monday, Ballmer said Microsoft is "obviously hard at work on the next version of Windows."

View Slideshow See all (5) slides

Asus Eee EP121
Lenovo U1 Hybrid
Lenovo IdeaPad Windows Slate
Viliv X70


"As we look forward to the next generation of Windows systems, which will come out next year, there's a whole lot more coming," he continued. "As we progress through the year, you ought to expect to hear a lot about Windows 8. Windows 8 slates, tablets, PCs, a variety of different form factors."

Which companies could Microsoft partner with? If's list of Windows 7 tablet manufacturers is any indication, Asus, Lenovo, and Samsung would be the likely candidates; Microsoft usually picks existing partners to help launch new initiatives, and Asus especially has developed a fully-formed tablet.

For example, Asus launched the Eee Slate EP121, a slate tablet that runs on a full blown Windows 7 operating system and an Intel Core i5 processor. The EP121 is among the biggest slates, boasting a 12-inch screen and weighing 2.5-pounds. Samsung's Sliding PC also bridges the gap between a slate and a netbook, but at the hefty price tag of $699. And then there's the Lenovo IdeaPad Slate, which also boasts a 10-inch screen.

Ballmer reiterated this week that Microsoft has "some work to do" when it comes to tablets, but stressed that "there will be a day in the future where it will be hard to distinguish a phone from a slate, from a PC."

While AllThingsD remains a conference for the punditocracy, Taiwan's Computex has traditionally been a show for the Taiwan ODMs, which actually build the desktop and notebook PCs that later acquire badges from HP and other traditional PC OEMs. Google's Android is expected to make a strong showing at Computex, where tablets and netbooks alike are expected to provide alternatives to notebook PCs.

"We are in a race," Ballmer said in a speech Thursday in New Delhi, India, according to Bloomberg. "We are not doing that badly, frankly. We are doing pretty well in that race. But the race is on to continue to push Windows to a variety of new form factors."

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