Microsoft Develops Tablet-Focused Windows OS

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Microsoft is reportedly working on a version of its Windows operating system that is geared towards tablets and smartphones

Just months after Microsoft officially launched the Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system, reports are emerging that Redmond is developing a version of its Windows operating system that is better suited to tablet and smartphone-based processors.

Rumours that Microsoft was developing a new mobile operating system, other than Windows Phone 7, have been hinted at for a while now and were reported by eWEEK Europe UK back in August this year.

And now the Wall Street Journal, which quoted sources close to Microsoft, has said that Redmond has been working on a new version of its Windows operating system designed specifically for low power electronics, for some time.

ARM-based

However, unlike the usual Windows operating systems, which are geared towards Intel and x86-based chips, this new mystery version of Windows represents a significant shift, as it is reportedly being developed to work on the power efficient processors from UK-based ARM Holdings, which are commonly found in smartphones such as the recently released Samsung Nexus S as well as tablets.

According to the Journal, both Microsoft and ARM have refused to comment.

The newspaper however quoted “two people close to Microsoft”, as saying that Redmond had the project for some time to create a version of Windows running on ARM-based microprocessors.

“One of those people said the effort is part of a broader push at Microsoft to make Windows more “modular” so that pieces of the operating system that are unnecessary for smaller, low-power devices like tablets can be easily stripped away to make the software perform snappily on the gadgets,” the Journal reported.

The thinking is that Microsoft has realised that it needs an operating system that can compete against the might of Android, whose next version is supposedly improved so that it works better with tablet devices.

CES Appearance?

It seems that Microsoft could well demonstrate the new version of Windows at next month’s Consumer Electronics Show. Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer has been scheduled to start off the CES show on 5 January with a keynote address, in which he is widely expected to showcase Microsoft’s consumer technologies including tablets and maybe even a sneak peak at Windows 8. But the decision by Microsoft to schedule a press conference for the day before Ballmer’s speech, a departure from last year, has added more fuel to the fire.

There is little doubt that Micosoft has been alarmed by the success of the tablet form factor and the inroads that Apple has made with its best selling iPad. Indeed, Goldman Sachs recently warned that Microsoft and Intel are set to miss out on the tablet goldrush, at least initially.

Ballmer speaking back in October had pledged that there would be tablets running the Windows operating system available by this Christmas. However that promise has not been forthcoming.

Microsoft for its part has been experimenting with tablets for some time – with rumours of a dual-touchscreen device known as Courier emerging as early as last year. The Courier project was reportedly canned in April but, according to Ballmer, Microsoft has continued to work with the tablet form factor “as both a productivity device and consumption device.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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