Microsoft Windows For Tablets Delayed Until 2012

Microsoft’s tablet-optimised Windows will miss this year’s party, according to reports

Microsoft’s tablet-focused Windows operating system is not likely to appear until late 2012, taking the computer giant out of the running in this year’s tablet wars.

The news comes in the form of a report by Bloomberg, citing people with knowledge of the plans. Public testing with partners and customers is not expected to begin until the end of this year, according to the news site.

Rumours abound

Rumours that Microsoft has been working on a version of Windows that is better suited to tablet and smartphone-based processors date back to the middle of last year. In August it was revealed by blogger Mary-Jo Foley that the project went by the name of Menlo.

Then in December, the Wall Street Journal quoted sources close to Microsoft as saying that Redmond had been working on a tablet-focused version of Windows for some time. The newspaper said that the operating system was being developed to work on power-efficient processors from UK-based ARM Holdings, rather than Intel’s x86-based chips.

This latest report suggests that the new OS will be an update to Microsoft Windows 7 (rather than Windows 8) with features more tailored to the touch screens, size and battery life of tablet computers. Microsoft declined to comment on the rumours.

Falling bahind the competition

A 2012 release puts Microsoft at a significant disadvantage to its competitors Apple and Google, which have been doing a good job of establishing their dominance in the market over the past year. Apple this week launched the iPad 2: the sequel to its astronomically successful iPad tablet, which reportedly sold nearly 15 million units in 2010.

The 9.7-inch iPad 2 is slimmer and faster than the previous model, with front and back-facing cameras. It comes in both black and white and will be available on 11 March in the US and by the end of March in the UK.

Meanwhile, Google is preparing the launch Honeycomb – a version of the Android operating system that is specifically designed for tablet interfaces. Honeycomb is expected to start appearing on devices – including Motorola’s Xoom tablet – in the second quarter of 2011.

“If 2011 is the year of the tablet wars, Microsoft will be awfully late suiting up for that battle,” said Michael Gartenberg, a New Jersey-based analyst for research firm Gartner. “It’s not a good position to be in.”

There are already a number of tablets running the current Windows 7 operating system, from manufacturers such as Asus, Acer and Motion Computing, as wellas AHX global’s cheekily-named iTablet.  However, most of these devices have had a lukewarm reception, with many pundits concluding that Windows 7, in it’s current form, is simply unsuited to the form factor.