You've got to be kidding me. First, Bloomberg and then the Wall Street Journal reported that at CES next month, Microsoft will unveil a full-featured version of Windows that runs on ARM processors. The expectation is that it will be used in tablets... in 2013.
2013!? Come on, would someone please fire Ballmer already. I have no love for Microsoft, but if this is true, this has got to be the dumbest plan I've heard from Microsoft since 1995's Microsoft Bob.
As Eric Lai explains, there are several ways that Windows on ARM could play out. I don't think any of them can work though.
The only reason for Microsoft to bring Windows 7, Windows 8, or whatever to ARM is to put it on a tablet. The best existing fit would be Windows Phone 7, but the story being spun by Microsoft rumor spiders seems to be that this will be bigger and better than Windows Phone 7.
Excuse me as I roll my eyes. Microsoft has always promised that their next big operating system will be the greatest thing ever. The business reason for this is to try to freeze the market. Ideally, a customer goes: "Oh, I can't buy WordPerfect today; Word 6.0 next year will be sooo much better." This tactic worked for decades, which is why the younger among you will never have even heard of WordPerfect, much less used it.
That was then. This is now.
Today, tablets are the technology toy of the year. IPad sales are hotter than ever. OK, so maybe some people won't want to buy an iPad for this Christmas, but that's probably because they're waiting for an iPad 2.
Apple doesn't have it quite its own way though. Android Linux, after a slow start, is finally gaining some tablet traction with models like Samsung's Galaxy Tab and the Nook Color. Many more Android tablets are on their way.
In April 2011, Ubuntu will start its first real tablet move with Ubuntu 11.04 and its Unity interface. Unity, in case you haven't heard, is Ubuntu's new GNOME-based desktop interface and it was meant for touch. In addition, you also had MeeGo, Intel, Nokia, and friends efforts towards a lightweight, Linux-based operating system.
Against all this competition, can Microsoft really produce a tablet rabbit out of its hat at CES that will get people's attention? I doubt it. The future of tablets belongs to Apple at the high-end, with an interesting fight ahead in the lower ranks of Android-tablets, Ubuntu and the rest of the Linux family. In this tussle, by 2013, Microsoft will bring much too little and be way too late to the market to matter.