Microsoft is scrambling to get some traction in the slippery tablet space, even though it invented the genre back in 2002. The next version of Windows, called Windows 8 for now, is supposed to embrace the tablet form better than anything Microsoft has produced to date. That should be a long way out, but information leaked by Dell implies it will release a Windows 8 tablet in Q1 of 2012. Can that timetable be met?
ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley isn't betting the farm, but offers an interesting scenario that would allow such aggressive timing on Dell's part. Her conjecture, and she makes it clear that's all it is, has Microsoft releasing the system-on-a-chip (SoC) version of Windows 8 first, ahead of the regular versions of Windows for the desktop. Her reasoning is that Microsoft has made it clear it is porting Windows to the ARM platform for quite some time, and pushing it first would allow Dell to meet this aggressive schedule of releasing a Windows 8 tablet early in 2012.
This makes sense for Microsoft, as it would allow them to get back in the tablet game sooner, rather than later. The folks in Redmond need to do this, as the tablet segment is expected to exhibit continued growth for the foreseeable future, and the longer Windows 8 is delayed the further behind it will fall. It is clear that Windows 7 on touch tablets is not going to get Microsoft any tablet market share, so perhaps Windows 8 will be better for producing compelling products. I hope Microsoft does whatever is necessary to speed up the effort to bring a compelling competitor in the tablet space. I also hope they realize to make a good showing in the tablet segment, it's not just the form factor, nor the OS, but also a good app ecosystem is required that can take advantage of the touch experience.