Microsoft is preparing to launch a full-scale attack on the booming tablet PC market with the creation of its own unit, according to industry reports.
The new Windows 8 operating system for tablets is currently in development, at this stage scheduled for release in autumn 2012, but with rumors of a new Microsoft-branded post-PC device, speculation has stepped up a notch.
Taiwanese technology news website Digitimes reported Wednesday that Microsoft was working with tech giant Texas Instruments and Taiwan-based manufacturers to “launch its own-brand tablet PC that features Windows 8 by the end of 2012.”
The introduction of an entirely Microsoft branded and powered rival to Apple’s iPad and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab would represent a far more aggressive attack on the tablet segment than previously expected.
In over 30 years in the industry, the world’s biggest software company has only released three Microsoft-branded products, the Xbox 360 console, the Kin smartphone and the Zune media player. The Xbox is the only one still in production and the only one to have enjoyed any real success.
Some experts are yet to be convinced about the rumors, pointing out that Microsoft generates a large percentage of profits by selling its software to manufacturers of computers and mobile devices. Releasing a Microsoft tablet would enter the company into direct competition with many of its clients, which could jeopardize its software sales base.
The tablet PC market is currently dominated by Apple’s iPad, boosted by the launch of the iPad 2 in March earlier this year. However rival companies are openly shifting their business strategies to engage Apple head-on, with Motorola’s Xoom, Research in Motion’s PlayBook and the Galaxy Tab from Samsung some of the major competitor units currently on sale.
If Microsoft is indeed planning its own rival tablet, it appears to be keeping a low profile. But with the likes of Hewlett-Packard soon to enter the market and rumors of a new device from e-commerce juggernaut Amazon.com, it would be the right timing for them to join the fray.
The Windows 8 tablet interface will be similar to the Windows Phone 7 smartphone OS. Julie Larson-Green, head of Windows Experience, says it will be “designed and optimized for touch”, but that it will also function seamlessly with keyboard and mouse.
“Our approach means no compromises — you get to use whatever kind of device you prefer, with peripherals you choose, to run the apps you love,” said Larson-Green.
Microsoft’s tablet is expected to resemble the basic shape of the iPad, though it is also said to sport a neat slide-out keyboard for an improved typing experience.
With the number of devices on the rise, Microsoft will have to put an aggressive price tag on its tablet if it hopes to make a dent in the market. Tablet-hungry masses can expect to pay around the same as for Android-powered devices like the Xoom or the Galaxy, rumors say.
Key Statistics – Global Tablet Market
- In 2015, over 147 million tablet PCs are expected to be shipped, compared to around 16 million units in 2010, representing a growth rate of 56% per year. (source: Infinite Research)
- Apple controls the tablet segment with 70% of the market, boasting over 20 million iPad sales. (source: RBC Capital Markets)
- In 2011, over 50 rival tablet devices are expected to be available. (source: RBC Capital Markets)
- The global mobile computing market is expected to top revenues $70 billion in 2014, up from $11 billion in 2010. (source: RBC Capital Markets)