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Reports: Microsoft Planning Windows for Tablets

Microsoft is planning to unveil plans to address the rapidly growing tablet market with a new version of Windows, according to published reports. CEO Steve Ballmer is expected to outline the plans in his keynote address at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas during the first week of January.

The new version of Windows will be designed for tablets running microprocessors developed by ARM Holdings Plc., according to Bloomberg. ARM is already the supplier of processors used in smartphones that run Windows Phone 7.

However the devices may not appear for as long as two years, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. Microsoft and ARM announced a licensing pact to develop software for ARM's platform back in July. The companies indicated that deal is a long-term effort not expected to result in near-term deliverables.

Microsoft indicated at the time that it intends to build a larger number of devices using its Windows Embedded platform and its forthcoming Windows Phone 7 platforms.

According to the reports, the software to be demonstrated next month will also run on AMD and Intel's x86 processor platform, though the ARM-based devices historically have consumed less power.

The reports also suggested that next month's announcement will be the latest effort to show that Microsoft is looking to create a more modular version of Windows. Redmondmagazine columnist and All About Microsoft's Mary Jo Foley, noting the reports, is predicting that Microsoft will announce a version of Windows Embedded Compact that runs on ARM processors.

Foley believes that the new OS will not be able to run apps that work on Windows 7-based tablets (such as the HP Slate 500 released by Hewlett Packard in October), though both will support Microsoft's Silverlight.

Noting the Journal's report that the new software won't be available for two years, Business Insider's Matt Rosoff reported that it sounds like Microsoft may be giving the first glimpse of Windows 8. "So maybe Windows 8 will support ARM," he wrote.

Microsoft has been criticized for being slow to address the tablet market. Apple has already sold millions of iPad devices and there are several devices based on Google's Android mobile platform and others expected to ship in 2011.

It was his CES keynote a year ago, where Ballmer displayed the Windows 7 slate from HP. However, after acquiring Palm Inc. for $1.2 billion, HP has shifted much of its slate efforts to the Palm WebOS platform.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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