Microsoft could be late to the tablet party, and it may end up paying for it.
Contrary to previous rumors that a version of Windows 8 designed especially for tablets could be made available later this year, inside sources at the company have revealed that Microsoft doesn’t intend to release a competitor to the Google Android and Apple iOS tablet operating systems until 2012. At the end of this year, partners and customers will begin public testing of the operating system.
In the meantime, Microsoft is developing updated versions of Windows 7 to make it more suitable for tablets by incorporating touch controls, accounting for smaller screens, and improving the efficiency of battery usage. While Microsoft did respond to the success of the iPad in January by stating its next version of Windows will work on ARM Holdings Plc technology — which is prominently featured in chips found in both smartphones and Android tablets — it was not as vocal this time around; a spokesman for Microsoft declined to comment on rumblings of a 2012 tablet OS release.
Judging by the timing and schedules of previous releases from Google and Apple, a 2012 release of a Microsoft tablet OS would put it up against a third-generation iPad from Apple and second or third iterations of devices for the Android tablet-specific OS. Even HP and Research in Motion have tablets coming out soon, which would probably mean that they could be releasing second generation models in 2012 as well, meaning that Microsoft would be up against a stiff level of opposition.
“If 2011 is the year of the tablet wars, Microsoft will be awfully late suiting up for that battle,” Michael Gartenberg, an analyst for Gartner Inc., told Businessweek in an interview. “It’s not a good position to be in.”