Will Asus' coming ARM-based Windows 8 tablets be available in 2012?

PC maker Asus has let the cat partially out of the bag regarding its Windows 8 tablet plans. It seems apparent, however, that there are at least two Win 8 tablets coming from Asus before the end of next year.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

There've been a number of rumors as to exactly when Microsoft's PC partners would deliver the first Windows 8 tablets.

But one of those partners, AsusTek, has spelled out -- at least to some degree -- in its own Q3 2011 Investor Conference slide deck from October 31, what's coming and when. (I believe the original report on this comes from netbooknews.de.)

Here's the slide (page 31):

(click on slide to enlarge)

WoA means "Windows on ARM.". GTM is "go to market."

I'm not sure what the "ticket for selling Windows 8 tablet" is.  Maybe it's the typical Microsoft upgrade/tech guarantee coupon -- the chit Microsoft gives customers who buy new PCs close to the date when a new operating system is released, allowing them an automatic upgrade to the later OS. (But on ARM-based Windows tablets, such a coupon wouldn't make sense since there are no ARM tablets running Windows 7. Hmm.)

My read on this slide is Asus will launch two new "hero products" in tablet form in Q3 that will be designed to run Windows 8. Will these be ARM-based Windows 8 tablets or Intel-based ones -- or both? I'm not entirely sure, and I'd argue you can't tell definitively from this slide. (The same slide in the deck also mentions two other "hero products" running Android coming from Asus in Q1 of 2011.)

The growing bet among Microsoft watchers is Windows 8 will be generally available by the fourth quarter of next year (which assumes a Windows 8 Q3 release to manufacturing date, I'd speculate). And those dates jibe with this slide.

Microsoft and its partners still have yet to deliver to testers an ARM-based version of Windows 8. Most of my contacts are expecting Microsoft to launch all versions of Windows 8 (Intel/AMD and ARM) at the same time next year, rather than on a staggered basis. But that mention of a "ticket for selling Windows 8 tablet" that is listed underneath the mention of Windows on ARM (WoA) has got me wondering if this will be the case, after all.

What's your read on this slide?

Update: One of my contacts familiar with Microsoft's OEM policies and procedures e-mailed me his take on Asus' slide. The "ticket" reference, he says, "means they are a premiere partner."

"They get first access to Win8.  Q3’12 is likely the earliest a hardware OEM can release Win8.  If they aren’t part of the 'WoA Alliance,' they’d get second dibs on access to Win8 which would delay their rollout until after RTM launch," he said. He also wondered whether the ARM version may be available to partners earlier, as it will be an OEM-only deliverable.

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