If you want a Microsoft Winpad, this is what you get (until next year)

According to a new survey, users seem very interested in Microsoft Winpad tablets, but what are their options for the next year or so?
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

A Boston Consulting Group survey out this week notes that 42 percent of U.S. consumers would be interested in buying a tablet that runs Windows -- significantly more than those who'd prefer a tablet running iOS or Android.

You can get a tablet running Windows today from a variety of PC makers. However, like AllThingsD, which reported on the new survey, I don't really think this is what those surveyed had in mind when they voted for a Winpad.

True touch-centric, more battery-conserving, more portable Windows tablets are coming next year (late summer/early fall seems to be the general consensus, though still not confirmed by Microsoft) with Windows 8. But Microsoft isn't going to stop hawking Windows 7 machines until Windows 8 is ready.

In fact, just this week, Microsoft made available for download its "Get Started" guide for "Using Windows 7 Professional on a Slate PC." (I feel as though Microsoft's choice of "slate" over "tablet" here is somewhat odd, given that the devices in question aren't "just" consumption devices.) The guide features all the usual suggestions -- ones about which I've blogged before -- for making Windows 7 better suited for use on a touch-first slate/tablet, including pinning sites using IE 9, setting up Jump Lists, pinning the Tablet PC Input Panel to the Taskbar, using Snap to compare windows, etc.

The new guide points to Product Scout to help users find applications suited for slate PCs. It also provides a link to the Office-411.com site which includes a video of a Windows 7 touch slate/tablet in action.

Is that it, then? Users who want Windows tablets sooner than next fall have to go with Windows 7?

The answer seems to be yes. But there is one ray of hope. Windows8update.com' s Onoura Amobi posted a tantalizing rumor (with the emphasis on the word "rumor") on his Windows8update.com blog recently. Amobi said that Microsoft may be considering allowing one or possibly more hardware partners distribute the coming Windows 8 beta preloaded on new tablets. He said there's talk that the OEM(s) would sell (at a steep discount) tablets preloaded with the Windows 8 beta, with the caveat that they'd be optionally upgradable to Windows 8 final upon final launch. Microsoft isn't commenting at all on this, as Amobi noted.

I haven't heard anything about this myself, but his post made me remember that leaked Dell roadmap from earlier last year that showed a Windows 8 tablet codenamed "Peju" due out around January 2012. Many are expecting Microsoft to deliver the one and only Windows 8 beta in January around the time of the Consumer Electronics Show. Definitely something that made me go hmmmmmm....

Update: Talk about synchronicity: Engadget posted some possible Peju pictures on October 6. (Peju is expected to be a Windows 7 tablet, but it still could be upgradable/usable as a Windows 8 one.)

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