Microsoft plans to announce something at an event in Los Angeles Monday. That much we know for certain. While the company hasn’t actually said what it will announce, sources have told The Wrap and All Things D that Microsoft will use the event to talk tablets.

But Microsoft has been talking about tablets for months. The upcoming Windows 8 and Windows RT operating systems are designed with touch input front and center, and many features may even be easier to use on tablets than traditional notebook or desktop style computers.

What could make this event unusual is an announcement that Microsoft isn’t just licensing its software to third party device makers — but could actually build and sell its own tablet. And that’s just what The Wrap and All Things D report the software company is preparing to do.

HP TouchPad Windows 8

The move could put Microsoft in a better position to compete against Apple in the tablet space. Apple controls the hardware and software for its popular iPad line of tablets, which allows the company to set competitive prices and maintain relatively high quality and performance standards.

But if Microsoft produces its own tablet hardware, the company will also be competing with the hardware makers that are Microsoft’s traditional partners. The company still makes most of its money by selling software designed to run on computers from Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Samsung, Toshiba, and other PC makers.

They probably wouldn’t be particularly happy if they have to compete with Microsoft on the hardware front and pay the company licensing fees for its Windows operating system.

It’s not clear whether the rumored Microsoft tablet would feature an x86 processor and full Windows 8 operating system or an ARM-based CPU and the stripped-down Windows RT software. My guess is it would be the latter — as that would help distinguish Microsoft’s tablets from those of most of the company’s partners/competitors.

Earlier this month we saw an awful lot of notebook and convertible tablets designed to run Windows 8 on display at the Computex trade show in Taiwan — an event where PC makers often trot out prototypes of the computers that will go on sale in the second half of the year. But there weren’t very many Windows RT devices on display at the event… suggesting that Microsoft wouldn’t be competing with its partners very much if it released its own ARM-based tablet.

At least two companies, Asus and Dell, are expected to offer Windows RT tablet during the second half of 2012 though.

This wouldn’t be the first time Microsoft has produced its own hardware. Microsoft’s Zune media player and Kin smartphones weren’t very successful. But the Xbox and Xbox 360 video game consoles are among the most popular gaming platforms in the world.

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12 replies on “Rumor: Microsoft to build its own Windows tablet”

  1. It would be suicide to compete directly with the companies they need in order to be successful. They would either have to price it above cost to allow their own vendors to have design wins, or it will drive them to Android. If this happens, Ballmer and the rest of the leadership in Redmond need to be taken out and metaphorically shot.

    I’m assuming this is just analyst speculation, because It’s just dumb, and ignores a lot of realities in Microsoft’s business model.

    Seriously they’d be going head to head with the iPad with Windows RT, with effectively only one model from them so they’d be forced into loss leading. Then they’re already facing a potential revolt on the desktop side. Very few businesses are going to move to Win8. So realistically their whole strategy is based on gaining significant market share in tablets, and they’d need the ODMs with them to help them gain market penetration just like the ODMs have helped Google with Android. Without it there are going to be a lot of jobs lost in Redmond, starting with the CEO and going down. It’s that critical, and I think even Ballmer knows it.

    I can see them coming up with a few reference designs. I can even, maybe, see them pull off a nexus style tablet like Google does by partnering with an ODM, but I can’t see them actually selling directly in retail to customers.

    Seriously they bet the farm on this one. They’re going to alienate a LOT of people if they get it wrong. The company will survive, the failure, i can’t see anyone else making it though. So they better have their eye on the ball.

    1. Google does the same thing with the Nexus phone and the unannounced Nexus tablet. Works well with the phone so far.

    2. If we focus on the tablet market, I don’t really think that MS is that worried about the reaction of the ODMs.
      They have tried (to compete with Apple) and failed.
      Apple’s tablet market share is almost 70%!
      And that’s still a growing market.
      So, contrary to you, MS can think that there’s some space to occuppy in this market.
      Who’s better equipped to take on Apple/iOS devices? Well MS of course.
      And what better way to assure a good market penetration with your new product (RT) than by proposing a full offer (hard + soft), one which you’ll control totally?
      They have the funds for it, some expertise, the ODMs aren’t that enthuastic about RT and how it’s priced and, well, they’re motivated as they want their piece of the pie.
      Maybe that’s why MS’s pricing RT so high, to dissuade ODMs and be able to justify their choice by saying: “As you don’t want it, we’re gonna do it ourselves.”
      It’s gonna get messier when ultra-hybrid with Metro OS are gonna come out but I dont think MS, for now, is aiming for that market.
      So, for the short term (2-3 years) it could be a good move from MS.
      For the long run, we’ll have to wait and see the evolution of the ‘simple’ tablet market.
      And don’t forget that, as some other people here pointed out, Google paved the way by proposing their own phone and soon tablet. Plus, they acquired Motorola for these exact reasons.
      But I just can’t help but wonder: What’s the role of Nokia in all that?
      Another announcement could be the acquisition of Nokia, no?
      In any case, I just hope their design will be good. And more competition (as long as it’s a thoughtful one) is always good for us.

  2. On one hand I would like a tablet made by Microsoft. On the other hand it seems this would drive other manufacturers to Android unless Microsoft prices their tablet the same as other tablets, passing the OS costs to consumers.

  3. I can’t help but think that MS has been looking at the success of Apple and its ability to control its own hardware platform in the tablet/phone space with a lot of green-eye jealousy over the last few years. And they have their own experience with the Xbox to draw upon too.

    1. It is like the store Microsoft opened up at Freehold Raceway Mall that is not far from the Apple store. It has the look and feel similar to the Apple store. The Microsoft store is pretty nice.

  4. I have thouht for a long time MS should build it own devices but in this case, I sure hope it is not the one pictured because it is butt ugly.

    1. That’s only because you can see my reflection in it. 🙂

      But seriously, that’s an HP TouchPad with a remote desktop client hooked up so I can remotely control a Windows 8 PC and see what it would look like on a tablet… I did this last year before I had a chance to actually try Win8 on tablet hardware.

      1. Not hardly Brad, I wish I could have a healthy a beard as you but like we say in Korea 똥 발생 (keeping it clean but it is something happens).
        I did’t like the shape of the HP Touchpad even though I though it had potential and also it look and felt cheaply made. The iPad is attractive and feels good but that 4:3 aspect ratio bothers me.
        I have an Asus Transformer Prime (waiting for the Transformer Infinity) and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 their beautiful devices to look at, use, and hold. However that is just one Koreans opinion 🙂
        Anyway Liliputing is always my first read in the mornings and I Thank You for all your hard and informative work.

        1. I have a Palm Touchpad but will some day replace it. I am looking at the Samsung Galaxy Tab; I like the OLED screen.
          I like Liliputing in the morning. It has a lot of neat devices to read about. 🙂

          1. I don’t see how you could go wrong with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and if you are considering the Galaxy Tab 2 I think it has a Super-AMOLED Screen which is Awesome.

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