RealTime IT News

Microsoft's iPad Competitor Not Due Till 2012?

It's been more than seven months since Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told investment analysts that becoming a major player in the tablet computing market was "job one," but the company has little to show so far, even as the iPad will celebrate its first birthday next month.

In fact, it may be late summer next year -- that is, as much as a year and a half -- before Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) seriously enters the market for tablets, according to a published report.

Friday, Bloomberg reported that anonymous sources with knowledge of Microsoft's plans had said that the company won't be finished adding in all of the necessary features to Windows, ostensibly Windows 8 at that point, to support tablet computing -- until late summer 2012.

"Public testing of a new version of Windows will begin at the end of this year with partners and customers, said the people, who declined to be identified because the plans haven't been disclosed publicly," the report said.

While the company itself has been officially mum, various reports claiming sources close to the software giant say that Microsoft plans to provide tablet features like support for multiple touch displays, greatly expanded battery life, and instant on capabilities in Windows 8 which is due around that time.

Microsoft has said that in order to run a full-sized Windows operating system on a tablet, it has to wait for hardware makers to catch up.

Additionally, Microsoft announced in early January that it will support so-called system-on-a-chip (SoC) architectures like ARM processors on Windows 8. The ARM family is currently the dominant processors for mobile devices.

At least one analyst said if the reports of Microsoft's Windows 8 timetable are true it may end up hopelessly behind in the tablet market.

"If Microsoft does that it will be playing dramatic catch up," Tim Bajarin, president and principal analyst at Creative Strategies, told InternetNews.com.

"[By then], Apple will be on iPad 3, and Google Android will be on version 2," he added. "The market is moving forwards fast."

Apple, for instance, just unveiled its iPad 2 on Wednesday, where CEO Steve Jobs told the audience that the original iPad sold some 15 million units in the first nine months.

"You'll have so many new tablets in the market already before Microsoft puts anything seriously in play," Bajarin said. "Microsoft owned the PC era. I don't think they'll run the post-PC era," he added.

“Microsoft is not providing comment on future versions of Windows," a Microsoft spokesperson said in an email to InternetNews.com.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.