Well done, Microsoft. You’ve just given Apple an unopposed 18-month lead in the tablet market. At least.
So, you haven’t bought an iPad yet. Good for you. But if you’re resisting the lure of the admittedly-good Apple tablet in order to wait for a Windows 7 tablet to come along then you may want to take a seat. Because it doesn’t look as though a Windows 7 tablet is going to be released onto the market until the middle of 2011 at the earliest. And it could be that none ever make it out of development hell.
This isn’t coming from Microsoft itself, and is instead the view of Jefferies analyst Katherine Egbert. However, according to Business Insider she formed this opinion after meeting with Microsoft’s General Manager of Investor Relations, so it probably isn’t far off the actual truth.
Egbert wrote in her report to investors:
Windows 7 is currently not supported on Qualcomm’s popular SnapDragon processor, and Intel’s low power Oak Trail processor (part of the Atom family) for tablets is not due out until March 2011. Microsoft could introduce Windows-based tablets on the existing Atom chips, but the risks associated with the introduction of a less optimized system outweigh the risks of waiting for the right technology to become available.
In other words, Windows 7 simply isn’t right for tablets at this point in time, with the operating system not optimized for use on them and the hardware not really up to the job of supporting such a heavyweight OS.
Egbert then mentions the yet-to-be-announced Windows 8, claiming it’s likely to be “more suited to the tablet market with features such as instant on, GPS support and restoration tools.” Which suggests Microsoft might be considering eschewing the idea of offering Windows 7 on tablet altogether and instead making Windows 8 the perfect OS for the job.
If so that would mean no Windows tablet until Windows 8 is ready for its big close-up. And that won’t be until this time next year at the absolute earliest.
This could spell disaster for Microsoft, as Apple is unlikely to waste such an opportunity to build momentum and put itself out of reach of the competition. Stick Google in the mix, with both its Android operating system and Chrome OS and Microsoft might be crowded out before it even gets a chance to show what Windows could do for tablets.