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Microsoft Slate Could Foretell the Shape of Tablets to Come

Microsoft Slate Could Foretell the Shape of Tablets to Come

Microsoft allowed a brief glimpse at a tablet-like device recently at its TechEd conference in New Zealand. The tablet was reportedly running Windows 8 and packing a quad-core processor, which would make it a little more muscular than most tablets now on shelves. Microsoft has yet to enter the modern tablet market in a meaningful way, though this device may offer insight on its plans.

By Rachelle Dragani
08/26/11 8:50 AM PT

Attendees at Microsoft's TechEd New Zealand show were reportedly treated to a preview of what may have been a new quad-core Windows slate device running on the not-yet debuted Windows 8.

The slate could be a giveaway at Microsoft's Build conference in September, according to a Smarter Geek blog post by attendee and IT consultant Alan Burchill. The information was treated with some skepticism, since other TechEd attendees didn't recall that claim, and one said the slate was running on Windows 7.

Regardless of the details, though, the device Microsoft showed probably won't be on shelves any time in the near future.

"I assume this is part of Microsoft gearing up for its developer conference in September. It would be a proof if concept, not a consumer-ready product," Sarah Rotman Epps, analyst at Forrester, told TechNewsWorld.

Buchill's post revealed two images of the thin-looking device that could be a predecessor to Microsoft's foray into the modern tablet market.

Microsoft didn't confirm or deny any part of the report.

Tablet Build

The tablet was reportedly running on a quad-core ARM processor -- a bit more powerful from most tablets on the market.

"That's still pretty light but the extra cores really help a fully multitasking OS like Windows. A lot of things run in the background, and ARM cores don't have much headroom," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld.

Most tablet devices currently on the market are smaller, less powerful versions of a computer. Tablet use is generally confined to a relatively small, albeit rabidly growing, group of consumers using the devices as a secondary computers. As tablet use becomes more mainstream and users turn to their tablets to perform more complex tasks and fill them with apps, though, the processors in tablets may become more adept at handling multitasking, heavy app use and data processing.

"Most of the next generation of tablets using Qualcomm and Nvidia ARM processors are quad-core. So we'll see this broadly in a few months," said Enderle.

The device was also reportedly running on Windows 8, to which Microsoft has not yet assigned a release date. Even if the tablet device wasn't using it at TechEd, the OS is probably on its way out relatively soon.

"It is supposed to start beta in a few weeks. It looks like they are shooting to release it mid next year," said Enderle.

Microsoft Making the Leap

Jumping into the tablet marketplace has proven to be an attractive gambit for many tech front-runners, although devices that aren't the iPad have had difficulty selling, despite some the generally warm receptions critics have given certain products. HP recently discontinued its TouchPad tablet line after being on the market less than two months and seeing dismal sales numbers.

Microsoft appears to be taking its time in entering the tablet market, which could actually help the company if it makes the plunge as the devices become even more mainstream and customers look for variety and specific elements when purchasing a tablet.

"Tablets are still very young and mostly consumption-only now. Microsoft's will be a creation tablet and more capable," said Enderle.

Microsoft has had an opportunity to see what consumers are and aren't buying and adapt those concepts to its product. However, they'll need to enter before the market becomes too crowded.

"Tablets seem to be cycled pretty fast, much faster than notebooks, so there is still a chance for them to get in the game if the product is good," said Enderle.


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