What if the rumored 'Microsoft tablet' isn't a Windows tablet?

What if the rumored 'Microsoft tablet' isn't a Windows tablet?

Summary: Rumors around Microsoft's June 18 announcement are taking a new turn towards some kind of Microsoft-branded tablet. Could this be an Amazon Kindle Fire competitor?

TOPICS: Tablets

The guesses on Microsoft's June 18 announcement are continuing to fly fast and furiously (if not fluidly).

The latest round are centering around Microsoft's big announcement being some kind of a Microsoft-manufactured tablet. If these rumors are true, I'm wondering whether the coming device might be more of a rival to the Amazon Kindle Fire than the iPad.

I don't have any brand-new rumors or tips to contribute on this topic. But I will revisit some of what we know about Microsoft's tablet and slate strategies.

Microsoft brass have continued to hint over the past year-plus that the company expects to see some kind of a Metro-centric reader to come to market.

They have never actually said such a device will run Windows 8 or even Windows on ARM/Windows RT. That has led me and others to speculate whether a Microsoft tablet -- if such a device ever DID come to market -- might be a Windows Embedded or, more likely, a Windows Phone OS device.

If such a "reader" were more akin to the Kindle Fire than to an iPad, a Los Angeles launch might make sense. Think this through. A Kindle Fire is an entertainment/consumption device. It is great for movie watching and music listening (hello, LA!) It also lets you read books (hello, Barnes & Noble). And remember: The settlement/contract between B&N and Microsoft mentioned Windows Phone. A lot. (In between all the redactions in that document.)

So if there's a Microsoft "reader" coming on Monday --and that's still a big if -- maybe it's meant to to be more of a Fire killer than an iPad competitor In other words, it's going to be a consumption-first device, not a creation one. What if that device is based on Windows Phone. And maybe even made for Microsoft by Nokia and private-labeled by Microsoft?

Yes, this is nothing but a bunch of "what ifs" at this point. But maybe a Microsoft Kindle Fire competitor is what we're talking about for a Monday reveal... and not a true iPad competitor (which is what the coming bunch of Windows RT tablets, the first of which are expected to launch in Q4 of this year, are supposed to be)....

Any updated/new guesses about what Microsoft has coming on Monday? And, again, as I said before, this is NOT looking to be the expected Microsoft-Yammer acquisition announcement....

Update: As a few of my readers have noted, there's no reason this device couldn't be a Windows RT tablet -- even if it is positioned as a Kindle Fire competitor.

It could run the Metro-fied Windows RT (Windows on ARM) operating system; be built by another company (Nokia or other); powered by the B&N Store on the back-end; and labeled as a "Microsoft tablet." (Microsoft doesn't technically manufacture the Xbox, either, though it is considered a Microsoft device.)

Topic: Tablets


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • What if?

    Its the long awaited Courier. I doubt it.
    • LOL!

      That's the first thing I thought too. It's kind of a running joke along message boards right now, probably made up of half hope and half sarcasm.
    • sigh

      The last time Microsoft had a big press announcement that I was convinced was for the Courier, they announced the Kin One and Kin Two instead. That was a sad day.
      • sigh again

        Kin 3 and 4???
    • Not Courier...

      The Courier team was disbanded long when the project was cancelled.
    • don't know

      But it was rumored back in February or March that Nokia was expected to release a windows tablet by the end of June 2012. Everyone poo pooed this idea.
  • This makes a lot of sense!

    I think you are spot on, again.
  • Silliness

    It has to be an entertainment deal. I would hope Microsoft has learned not to announce a hardware product that will ship 4 months from now. That mistake killed the HP TouchPad and Palm Pre.
    Jeff Kibuule
  • Hmmm...

    Given Microsoft's recent patent agreement with Barnes & Noble and the company's injection of $300 mil into B&N's coffers, I'd expect any such development to be co-announced with the bookseller. I strongly suspect that a Microsft e-reader, when it comes, will be co-branded, and might even bear the name "Nook".
  • mobileOS is a good bet

    I think your right when the IF of monday is a reader, the device will be consumption focused and the OS based on WP. Hence the carefully taken steps in the partner domain. Windows8 and tablets is the partnerled market of HP, Samsung, Dell and others. It think Microsof will not take their first hardware steps their. Too much risk, too strong competition.
    The market of the more pure reader and consumer focused devices however has potential. Hence the decission of the US State Department: 'the Amazone Kindle is the only e-Reader that meets Gov needs'. B&N was brushed away with the Nook. So together their WP based mobile platform should deliver a better prop. Actually WP delivers more than just consumption focus and will fit in the open domain between the pure eReader and the rich tablet.
  • It's not WP based

    If they put out a tablet it will not run Wp7 software. It's built into the software to have a max resolution of 800x480. Every single Windows phone runs that as a max. Could you imagine a tablet running in 800x480? It would look horrible. Also why would they release a tablet with Windows Phone OS on it when we are on the cusp of a new major operating system release? Just doesn't seem to make sense.
    • WP Apollo, next gen due this fall ...

      supports multiple resolutions higher than 8x4 which is the only currently supported resolution. A Metro only competitor to the fire would make alot of sense. Mostly because I've been a big proponant of just that since the fire hit the market. We have 3 of them in our home and if you run the W8 demo video full screen on the device it gives you a great sense of what it would be like to use and it's all good. The fire is a really nice $200 tablet. Just big enough, not too big. Let's hope the coming "smart glass" tablet blows our expectations out of the water.
  • Really, WP7 for eReader?

    I think you are right about an eReader (content consumption) device being announced. I also think it will be co-branded device by MS & B&N.

    I think you are totally wrong on it being a WP7 device, for the following reasons.

    1) WP7 was not made for bigger screens. Consumers want to watch video in HD (aka: high relation) on eReader devices.

    2) Win8 is better for this type of device, especially with the live tiles.

    3) The next version of the MS phone OS will be Win8. That is the big selling point for Win8: One OS for all devices.

    4) MS would be stupid to release WP7 based eReader months before the launch of Win8. I think they just have a "Demo" to show of the new B&N Win8 eReader to show, and announce when it will be available(maybe even announce pre-order being available). If pre-order sales are big, that would be a great build up to the release of Win8. But pe-sales would be risky, since slow sales would be seen as Win8 first failure.
    • Not Win Phone OS 7

      If it were a Win Phone OS device, I'd say it's Apollo (Win Phone OS 8). THat OS and devices running it are due Q4 2012. Thanks. MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
      • That interpretation may actually have some form of legs Mary Jo.

        I seem to recall that several months ago (end of last year beginning of this?) an anonymous Nokia exec was quoted as claiming that a WP8 device would be launched in June. MS squashed that one very rapidly with a *very* rapid rebuttal. However, you never know - it is possible that it has something to do with the *phones* rather than a tablet.
  • W8 Nook

    I hadn't considered the Reader aspect. Then this article got me thinking about the recent partnership w/ B&N. I'm thinking now the announcement could be a new W8- or Apollo-based Nook.
  • This would be the worst news ever...

    Not that I think MS should abandon the window-centric reader idea. Just that I'm hoping for something bolder. They really can't afford to be timid here. I'm hoping some actual product shipping announcements. I wants me an Asus Transformer Book!
  • That would actually be a good thing

    Having their own branded tablets. They don't need the OEM model in the tablet market since there really isn't any hardware competition out there except for the iPad. It would be a new market for them. That's not counting that useless old PC swivel-screen crap that they used to put out.

    Microsoft could then do what Apple does and control the whole sha-bang with it's own brand.
    • I think you forgot something.

      Microsoft would then be the *only* vendor of Windows tablets, all of the OEMs building hardware for it today would drop it like a hot potato and run to Android. And yes, it would be a new market for them, but they would the *last* entry in the market, not the first like Apple was. That's a huge hurdle to leap.

      The exact same logic was proposed years ago when Microsoft was considering their own line of PCs. Fortunately somebody at the top realized how many powerful enemies that would create and abandoned the idea, but the concept is still the same: MS gets most of its revenue from the OEMs, and has to remember which side of the bread has the butter on it.
      terry flores
      • Why do you think so?

        Google-branded devices haven't caused other Android device makers to leave the market. Nor, for that matter, has Google's acquisition of Motorola Mobility.

        A general Microsoft tablet, as opposed to a targeted device like an e-reader, seems like a strange idea to me, but it wouldn't necessarily drive the other vendors out of the market. For a start, one of them would probably manufacture it.