A Microsoft -built, Windows 8 RT tablet will be introduced at a special event on Monday, according to Web-based rumors. The Redmond, Wash.-based technology giant has issued press invitations for an event on Monday afternoon in Los Angeles, at which a "major announcement" will be made.
The rumors are coming from several Microsoft-watchers, which are citing sources with knowledge of the company.
ARM, x86 Tablets
While Microsoft has had great success manufacturing its Xbox gaming console and its own Zune media player, it has largely left manufacturing computing devices to others. Previous tablets running Microsoft OS have been made by such hardware makers as HP and Samsung. If Microsoft does enter the tablet market with its own device, it will inevitably be seen as directly competing with the category leader, Apple.
Assuming a Microsoft-made tablet running the RT version of Windows 8 is released, it will utilize an ARM processor , since RT is designed to run on ARM hardware. Tablets made by various manufacturers and running regular Windows 8 are expected to be released later this year, based on x86 processors.
A key argument in favor of Microsoft releasing its own tablet is the same one that has helped Apple achieve its huge tablet market share -- by making both hardware and software , the company can deliver better integration between the two. Google's Android , by contrast, has taken the previous Microsoft approach of letting others create the devices, and this has contributed to complaints of platform fragmentation.
By making sure that the tablet's software-hardware integration is solid, Microsoft would also be shoring up a major strategic emphasis behind Windows 8 -- that, with this platform, IT departments can choose tablets, laptops, or desktops without having to support different operating systems.
'Huge Direct Sales Force'
Apple has made great inroads into business markets with its iPad, a situation that undoubtedly raises concerns in Redmond. While the consumer tablet market at this point would be a challenge for Microsoft, Windows is still dominant among laptops and desktops in the business market.
Microsoft is stepping up its pitch to businesses to adopt Windows 8. At the company's TechEd North America conference just concluded in Orlando, for instance, executives pushed to IT-oriented attendees the OS's emphasis on mobility, productivity, remote management, virtualization and security , and its flexibility for both touch-based and keyboard- and mouse-based interfaces.
Tablets have been adopted by many companies, but there have been concerns expressed by some businesses that tablets are not as useful in terms of productivity as, say, laptops. With a tablet completely created by Microsoft, the company could have complete control over how its Metro interface on a tablet is received in businesses -- a key aspect of how Windows 8 will be received.
Laura DiDio, an analyst with Information Technology Intelligence Consulting, said a Microsoft-made tablet "could make a difference" for IT departments, because of the company's technical service and support. It would also be positioned to sell into companies, she noted, because of Microsoft's "huge direct sales force."
"If I'm a CIO," DiDio said, "I would definitely listen to them" about their new tablet.