What's on Microsoft's Windows holiday gift list?

A year ago, shortly after the launch of Windows 7, Windows 7 PCs were a hot holiday gift item. But what about this year?
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

A year ago, shortly after the launch of Windows 7, Windows 7 PCs were a hot holiday gift item. But what about this year?

HP's Slate 500 Windows 7 business tablets may be on back-order (less surprising given their reportedly limited supply), but they're nowhere near as likely to be on wish lists as iPads and color Nooks. And even the soon-to-be-unveiled Dell netbook-tablet convertible, the Dell Inspiron Duo, is not likely to be a runaway holiday hit -- at least not on the magnitude of other consumer tech goodies.

Microsoft is holding a press event on November 23 -- the same day the Dell Inspiron Duo is rumored to be launching -- in New York City, where the company is expected to show off more Windows 7 PCs.

Update: It looks like Microsoft is having two Windows holiday events. There's also another slated for December 6 in New York City. I've asked for more info as to what will be different. No word back yet.

Make no mistake: The emphasis on the Windows front this holiday from the Softies is PCs, not slates.  CEO Steve Ballmer said as much during Microsoft's annual shareholders meeting today. Ballmer noted that Windows is now on 1.2 billion PCs. He said in the next month, expect from Microsoft a number of "new form factors based on Windows." These will start off with "new form factors of PCs, rather than something trying to be something else," Ballmer told shareholders.

He restated his previous guidance: In the next year to 18 months, once Intel rolls out its Oak Trail processors, which have the kind of battery-life and processing power needed by Windows slates, expect other form factors to arrive. Ballmer said it will be during that 2011+ period that there will be "new advances and changes in our software" to support these kinds of devices. (He didn't elaborate on "changes in our software," but the Softies have said not to expect an interim version of Windows with more touch-centric capabilities. They have hinted that the kind of "big button" interface pioneered in Windows Media Center may come into play.)

In addition to highlighting new PCs from Microsoft partners at the November 23 event, Microsoft also will likely play up Windows Live Essentials 2011. That bundle of software plus services is key to Microsoft's new "To the Cloud" ads. I'm not so sure most consumers are going to understand "the cloud" after viewing these ads. Things are a little less cloudy if you know to go to Microsoft's Windows 7 plus Windows Live site, which explains that a PC user who wants to extend Windows 7 needs to download Windows Live Essentials 2011 to get additional creation and collaboration capabilities. I haven't heard Microsoft using its "Personal Cloud" terminology lately (maybe company marketers decided against it after floating some trial balloons this summer), but this is essentially the same campaign.

Obviously, Windows 7 PCs aren't the only holiday gift items the Softies are pushing this year. Kinect/Xbox 360 and related game titles, of course, are at the top of the company's list, as are the newly released Windows Phone 7 phones.

Stay tuned next week to hear more about what else, if anything, Microsoft unveils during its Windows holiday announcement....

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