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Windows Tablet OS Not Arriving Till Late 2012

David Gilbert


Windows Tablet OS Not Arriving Until Late 2012

A report has suggested that Microsoft are not planning on bringing a tablet-specific version of Windows to market until late in 2012, which will put them at a significant disadvantage when compared to rivals Apple and Google.

The report in Bloomberg today comes in the same week that Apple launched the second generation iPad and at a time when new Honeycomb tablets are launching every couple of weeks. Microsoft has not immediately replied to these reports but we have seen nothing that would suggest the predictions are not true. Last month we reported on Dell’s tablet roadmap for the 2011 and 2012 with a tablet called the Peju slated for an early 2012 launch running Windows 8 - rather than Windows Tablet.

Microsoft’s decision to make the next version of its OS that works on ARM’s processors is seen as a reaction to the huge popularity of the iPad. Currently the tablets that run Windows 7 are not selling well and are aimed primarily at the corporate section of the market. Microsoft is working to update its Windows 7 operating system with features more tailored to the touch screens, size and battery life of tablet computers but until that arrives most tablet manufacturers will steer clear of the platform.

While it dominates the PC market, the Redmond-based company has struggled to gain traction in the mobile market with Windows Phone 7 coming to the table late and having some issues surrounding its first update. A proper tablet-specific version of Windows would certainly be popular but if it doesn’t arrive for another 18 months it will be up against the third generation versions of the iPad and Galaxy Tab and second generation Xoom, TouchPad and Optimus Pad models.

Source: Bloomberg via ZDnet


March 4, 2011, 7:08 pm

Late 2012? Why bother, honestly.

The market will be saturated with Android for the techies and iPads for the useless supernumeraries (directors, 'managers', 'creatives', etc).

It's highly unlikely that MS could deliver something so compelling that would entice anyone to migrate...


March 4, 2011, 7:23 pm

So what does Microsoft consider to be a 'tablet-specific' OS, because current evidence would suggest that it's not necessarily the same as everyone else. If they build a completely new purpose-built interface from the ground up then fair enough, I'm sure MS could come up with a very decent OS. However, if they just try to jury-rig a touchscreen interface onto an existing desktop OS...

I saw an interview with Ballmer at CES where he downplayed the deficiencies of Windows 7 on a tablet when compared with iOS or Android, despite repeated jabs from the interviewer. I couldn't tell if he was just putting on a brave face to sell the product or whether he was actually deluded.

Ala Miah

March 4, 2011, 7:32 pm

Anyone with 'half a brain' would know that if they bought out a tablet version of windows 7 as good as windows 7, it would sell like hot cakes knowing that there's nothing out there yet apart from the iPad. Obviously other tablets are coming but it will take them time to get decent market share. Windows 7 has that already!

Anyone who wants a tablet, will already have one by then!


March 4, 2011, 8:03 pm

All along its history Microsoft has been always late to the party, the best example being the Internet, but always seemed to to have turned the situation around. I think they still hope to do the same this time.

However things in the industry move much faster these days. It's also an entirely new platform which they don't control, don't have a captive industry like Intel giving them undocumented opcodes on their CPUs either and now Obama doesn't even invite Ballmer to his private geekfests.

I think they truly lost the plot this time.


March 4, 2011, 8:56 pm

(1) A lot of people trot out the "Microsoft's M.O. has always been to be late to the party, appropriate the best features of the market leaders, and do pretty well" argument. The problem with this line of thinking is that Microsoft is no longer the market monster it used to be. Apple has way more resources and credibility, and Google is at least on par.

(2) It's pretty easy to clown Microsoft for this move, and many have. But in my mind, Microsoft sees tablets encroaching on the productivity-computing market, and has decided that it's strongest position is to port its productivity-computing platform downward into the tablet space where they can say "do you want your tablet to be an supersized iPod Touch, or a miniaturized full-featured computer?" When more and more people start looking at tablets as an either/or proposition with laptops, that value proposition will be pretty powerful.


March 4, 2011, 10:01 pm

I don't think it matters that they will come late to the party, look at all the people who plan to buy the iPad2 who have the original. Tablets/phones, at most you keep them two years these days, so there's always people buying them. Sure it's bad they aren't ready with their tablet OS, but it's not going to ever be too late to join in. Especially since one assumes Windows apps will run on their tablet, they won't have any lack of apps issues that worry about RIM, HP, etc.

I really would have thought by now they'd have "Windows 7 Tablet Touch Pack" or some other lovely long name out so that Windows tablets could compete on ease of use. It's time MS laid down their plans, I'm surprised they can sidestep this question at earnings calls so easily.


March 4, 2011, 11:02 pm

@Heelo: Except porting down doesn't work! What the current crop of tablets have proven is that the form factor supports consumer-focused devices. Tablets are better at consuming content than they are at creating it, which differentiates them from the desktop/laptop PC. Sure, there will always be a niche use for a fully-featured Windows tablet in the enterprise, but these will never sell in numbers that will change the world. MS had a few years head-start on the iPad and still they couldn't crack the mainstream consumer market.

I do agree that MS probably see their dominance in the desktop arena as leverage in the tablet market, so I can see why they would want to port down. It just seems to me like that's a battle they've already lost.

@HK: Have you tried using MS Word on a tablet PC? It's a mess. The interface isn't designed to be tapped with a finger, and even using a stylus is a pain. The controls are too small and simple operations like selecting text become a chore. This is in stark contrast to the intuitive, finger-friendly interfaces of iOS and Android. Sure, a Windows tablet would have no shortage of software available, but none of it would be optimised for the tablet form factor. As such, if MS plan to compete in the same market as Apple and Google they're going to need a massive influx of new software, regardless of the platform they choose.


March 4, 2011, 11:39 pm

I know that tablets are in their infancy but even if MS come to the table with a great product I think it still might be too late. I was optimistic about WP7 and by all means it's a great OS but has it managed to gain any significant traction?

Corporate sales have always kept MS on top in the PC market but these days it's all about selling to consumers and Xbox aside MS don't really seem to do a great job at that.

All that said, in the case of tablets it really seems like MS don't get it. After having finally figured out that phones need custom OSs it looks like for some reason they think that tablets don't and that Windows can just be shoehorned in.


March 4, 2011, 11:50 pm

Remember this kids "always arrive late to the party for the best impression". Unless you are a gadget freak who must get grubby with the first thing in site. 2012 sure I can wait. Apple is Apple and Android ain't so hot, so MS have a customer in me for sure.


March 5, 2011, 1:34 am

I think Microsoft's new marketing campaign should be: "Where do you want to go tomorrow?".

Arctic Fox

March 5, 2011, 11:23 am

I think that we are assuming a little to much when it comes to being able to imagine the market for tablets and smartphones in two year's time. When Win 7 was first being built the iPad was scarcely a glint in Steve Jobs' eye and even he could not have predicted the enormous success that the iPad 1 has enjoyed. Attempting to cobble a version of an existing conventional Wintel OS to run on tablets will of course not be completely satisfactory which is precisely why MS are compiling two different versions of Win8 (ARM and Wintel). In the course of the next 1 - 2 years the hardware available in tablet/slate form will be more than powerful enough to run a full song with choruses OS (without killing the battery) that will be able to do the same job as a pc (particularly when combined at home with a docking station and a full size display for when you want to work at your desk). The party as far as _that_ type of tablet is concerned has not really even started yet let alone been possible to be late for. Therefore, the key question is whether or not Microsoft are correct in believing that there is a major market for a full functionality pc in tablet/slate form factor. Whether or not they are right when it comes to the answer to _that_ question is surely the issue here - and the jury is not merely still out on that, it has not even been picked yet. My gut feeling (highly subjective I know) is that there will be a substantial market for that type of product especially since we know that MS is busy compiling the entire Office package to run on ARM/Win8. IMHO the form factor that may _really_ be killed by the slate is the laptop.


March 6, 2011, 6:14 am

If Microsoft just perfected a tablet around office/outlook. They would clean up with the corporate tablet market. This is what they are probably doing. And hopefully is what's taking them so long. Focus on corporate, and rely on external developers to focus on the multimedia/entertainment applications later on. Particularly for those tablet users who don't want their software ecosystem dictated to them. Although Apples business model may be to control the software distribution channels, history has shown that openness will prevail in the long run. That would be a win for me.


March 6, 2011, 3:47 pm

"whether he was actually deluded."

I'm afraid that Ballmer is and has been for a long time. He actually laughed at the iPhone and went on to say how "great" the Windows Mobile 6 platform was and how much better....that worked out well.

Cloud computing (Azure), Mobiles and Tablets, Android vs Chrome, Ballmer has shown time and time again that he just does not get a post-PC world and for that reason, MS should see sense and let him go. MS is a typical large company trying to cling on to their very lucrative market (Desktop PCs) as the world changes around them. They have some nice technology and its certainly not too late, but they need a new leader not scared to cannibalise their existing markets to build new ones.

MS are not alone in this, many companies struggle with a big transition (e.g. Nokia), but plugging their desktop vision and OS as the world changes will hold them back. Cloud computing is full of hype at the moment, but it will take hold in time, MS need to be ready and includes a competitive OS for the devices people will want to use in that world, not just a re-hashed windows.


March 6, 2011, 5:32 pm

Are you really clamouring for Microsoft, which has shown in Windows Phone 7 to offer the most closed platform of them all (not to mention the office format itself), and then saying openness will prevail in the same paragraph?


March 6, 2011, 10:24 pm

@Gk.pm - Well I was actually stating initially what would be true to enable Microsoft to make their tablet a success. I haven't used Windows Phone 7 yet, and whilst it looks nice, I think the tablets would be taken a similar route to Windows on desktops. And perhaps a test of how their operating system model can be taken beyond desktop computing.

Microsoft spends tons on research, so just because they don't have something to show now, their long term vision should reap rewards in the future.

I can't imagine Microsoft ever charging a 30% cut on a companies sales of apps, so in that respect I see them as a more open company than many label them to be. However sometimes they haven't always gotten the balance right.

Just because the closed nature of office helps maintain format compatibility across the world, it is sometimes translated as being anti-competitive. In my view, if there were compelling alternatives, they have their chance to exist and even replace Microsoft Office on the Windows OS, but the lack of an alternative is down to business not exactly Microsoft.

The same way the success of the Apple App store is down to developers choosing to put their apps on the platform or not.

Hamish Campbell

March 7, 2011, 4:56 pm

"Just because the closed nature of office helps maintain format compatibility across the world, it is sometimes translated as being anti-competitive."

Did you really just write that?


March 7, 2011, 6:26 pm


Well, "porting" Windows 7 (or Vista/XP before it) certainly didn't yield a compelling product from a UX perspective. That's for sure. But the real reason for that is that MS designed those OSes with the point-and-click interface as priorities 1, 2 and 3. They were designed as desktop/laptop operating systems that "could support" a touchscreen interface.

But the fact that Windows 8 will be ARM-compatible indicates that it is being designed from the ground up as an operating system that is optimized for the tablet market. Many/most background processes will likely be cut out, and the look-and-feel when running on a tablet device is likely to be vastly different that what you'll see on laptops/desktops.

The key will be delivering a continuity between the tablet and desktop experiences, something akin to what Joshua Topolsky has termed the "Continuous Client," where all of your settings/histories/files are automatically synced across devices. In my mind, when Microsoft talks about running Windows 8 on a tablet this is what they're thinking instead of merely running a desktop operating system with larger "touch-friendly" icons on the desktop and a larger system tray.

Whether MS can pull it off is, of course, a real concern. But at this point in time its the only bullet left in the gun.


March 7, 2011, 6:51 pm

@haim - Yes I did. I don't see the obligation of MS to support every file format or ensure that decisions they make are compatible with the rest of the market. That's why we have free markets and it's the responsibility of the competition commissions to make judgement that go against free market mentality.

MS have been deemed to be acting anti-competitively in the past/present, but they act no differently to every other company in a capitalist economy, e.g. chase profits at the expense of other companies. The only difference being their market power which results quite rightly in increased scrutiny.


March 7, 2011, 7:10 pm

@Heelo: I would argue that if your touchscreen interface also supports point-and-click, it's inherently compromised and not competitive as a consumer device. Microsoft couldn't possibly prioritise a touch interface at the expense of point-and-click as the bulk of their revenue comes from dyed-in-the-wool Windows and Office users. They can't afford to alienate their millions of corporate users by pandering to the consumers.

I suppose they could design entirely separate, specialised interfaces for each control method, but how far would they be willing to diverge if they see the 'Continuous Client' concept as the future? If all that's shared between devices is settings and files and not the UX, then maybe that could work.

However, just because Win 8 will run on the ARM instruction set doesn't necessarily mean that tablets are the intended target, just mobile devices in general. Smartbooks and other future mobile devices may be what MS are aiming at here.

Hamish Campbell

March 7, 2011, 7:57 pm

@darkspark88 : Reasonable stuff, however the sentence gives a rather positive spin on the reason the format is closed. A by-product of no one being able to, in theory, make a slightly non-conformist implementation of the .doc format and so ruin compatibility is not really a reason to have a closed format. In fact, one could suggest it causes less compatibility as all other word processors have to 'guess' how to manage these documents.

MS Offices market domination maintains the compatibility, and the closed format (perhaps illegally) maintains that domination to a degree....although I think it probably has a lot more to do with the quality of MS Office and the domination of MS Windows.

crikey, is that the time, off home...

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