A year ago, Microsoft was attempting to differentiate slates from tablets and advocating that OEMs use different versions of Windows for each type of device. This year, the message is it's all one big Windows world.
What a difference a year makes, when it comes to Microsoft's slate strategy.
At the Computex show in 2010, Microsoft officials were doing some fancy footwork to differentiate slates from tablets and explain when and why OEMs would use Windows Embedded Compact vs. Windows 7 as operating systems for those different categories of devices. This year at Computex, Windows -- not the Embedded Windows version -- is being championed as Microsoft's operating system for slates and tablets both.
At this year's Computex, Windows Embedded merited barely a mention during Guggenheimer's keynote. There was no more talk about creation vs. consumption devices. And the bit that Guggenheimer did discuss around Microsoft's Embedded OS platform was all about industrial devices, point of sale terminals and cars. Not a word this year about Windows Embedded being a good choice for slates.
But shortly after the Windows Embedded Compact 7 launch, something changed. Microsoft seemingly dropped Windows Embedded Handheld 7 -- its Windows Embedded Compact 7-based version of its ruggedized handheld operating system -- from its roadmap. And so far, all the new Windows slates and tablets that have come to market in the past couple of months and/or promised for the following couple of months are running full Windows 7, not the Embedded Compact 7 version of the operating system.
One explanation for the change is that Microsoft is putting all of its slate/tablet eggs in the Windows 8 basket. Because Windows 8 will run on both x86 and ARM chips, Microsoft no longer needs two different operating systems to target the two families of platforms. Microsoft is believed to be readying two different interfaces for Windows 8: One tailored to work on touch-centric devices and another that will work on standard PCs, laptops and notebooks. (Maybe we'll hear more on this from Sinofsky later tonight, though I'm not holding my breath as to the amount of Windows 8 information Microsoft is planning to share at this point in the development schedule....)
The Windows Embedded team hasn't been willing to talk about futures or positioning the several times I've asked for explanation. My assumption is Microsoft is no longer encouraging (or maybe even allowing) OEMs to use Windows Embedded Compact as a slate/tablet OS. If I get any kind of updated positioning statement from Microsoft, I'll update this post with it.