Consumers looking for an alternative to Apple iPad’s dominance of the tablet computer market may find more of a selection hitting the market in the next couple of months.
Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer apparently told the London School of Economics Tuesday that the company will debut its own tablets as early as this Christmas, according to multiple news reports. (At this time, Microsoft is insisting that Ballmer made no mention of tablet computers at the event. They’ve promised to send me the transcript, and I’ll update here as soon as I have it.)
Rumors are also swirling that Microsoft will use its long-planned Oct. 11 press event in New York City to outline its plans for the tablets. Sales of tablet computers have hurt the bottom lines of almost all the major computer competitors, a trend that has continued for as long as Apple has dominated that particular section of the tech market.
The New York City event had previously been slotted to focus on Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system, but pressure from shareholders and a recent sharp drop in Microsoft’s stock price has it scrambling to expand its offerings quickly.
Ballmer’s speech at LSE was a taped press event and is available widely online, but it’s muffled and difficult to decipher (hence my request for a transcript from Microsoft). He appears to tell the audience that Microsoft now has its tablet strategy well in hand.
According to multiple news outlets reporting on the event, Ballmer said, “You’ll see slates, but if you want most of the benefits of what a PC can offer, creating, a form factor that has been tuned over years, you’ll see us expand the footprint of what Windows can target,” he said in a taped press event available widely online. “We’ve done work on a Windows tablet, and you’ll see slates with Windows on from this Christmas.”
Still, how effectively new Windows tablets could compete with Apple’s booming iPad sales (the iPad has been selling nearly 5 million units a quarter since it debuted in April, 2007) remains to be seen.
The earlier roll out of the HP Slate, which runs on Windows 7, was widely seen as a flop, as the device struggled with the operating system and frequently had to be rebooted or redirected in order to cope with its built-in Windows capability.
Still, on Tuesday Ballmer appeared to be unphased by the HP product’s troubles with 7, saying that any new Windows slate product would run on that operating system, at least initially.
“We’re not going to do a major revamp of Windows 7 for slate applications, that will come in the next version (Windows 8)” said Ballmer.