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Summary:

Speculation has begun that Microsoft will launch its own tablet device on Monday, but will it be a full computer or a consumer device? No matter what’s announced, it could have implications regarding Windows partnerships and the public’s desire, or lack thereof, to buy Microsoft hardware.

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Microsoft is holding an event in Los Angeles on Monday, where it is expected to unveil its own tablet device. The Wrap first reported exclusively that Microsoft will manufacture the device hoping to combat Apple’s dominance in the tablet market. Long-time Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley suggests instead that such a device would be akin to a Kindle Fire tablet and not a Windows productivity tablet. No matter what is announced, it could have a wide range of implications regarding Windows partnerships and the public’s desire, or lack thereof, to buy hardware from Microsoft.

I don’t have any inside information on what Microsoft may or may not show off on Monday, but I think Foley is closer to the mark. First, the event is scheduled in L.A. — a city known far more for entertainment than hardware devices. That suggests either new or expanded media services from Microsoft or a consumption-focused device.

The latter doesn’t need a full-blown Windows 8 experience and, as Foley notes, Microsoft has dropped hints of a Metro-based e-reader slate in the past. That would be more akin to a Nook Tablet or Kindle Fire in my mind, and I’d expect Microsoft’s Metro UI to completely hide any legacy Windows interface, settings or functionality.

Instead, like the e-readers from Amazon and Barnes & Noble, this would be a true consumer electronics device with a skin — Metro, in this case — that offers limited, but effective, functionality. Perhaps it’s based on Windows Phone to run apps from that platform, in fact, although screen resolution could be a limiting factor.

If that’s the case, Microsoft’s hardware partners shouldn’t be too upset. They can still build true, full-featured Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets without competing directly against the company they pay software licensing fees too. On the other hand, if whatever Microsoft shows on Monday is something that its partners could make too, we could hear some snipes from those who plan to make Windows tablets.

In any case, there’s a question to be asked here, even if at first it sounds premature: If Microsoft does indeed design, build and sell its own device, will consumers buy it? Obviously without knowing what the device is, what it can or can’t do and how much it will be are all questions that need answering before anyone pulls out their wallet.

But even before we have the details, the question is valid in this respect: Microsoft is essentially a software and services company. Outside of computer peripherals — think of keyboards, mice and such — Microsoft hasn’t made many forays into hardware. And when it has, it hasn’t batted a thousand.

On the one hand, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 is a huge hardware hit for the company. But on the other hand? The Zune and MSNTV come to mind as stinkers. Some consumers aren’t apt to buy a hardware product from a company that’s better known for its software and a few failed devices, even if the Xbox 360 is a winner.

How about you?

  1. My life is and shall remain microsoft free!

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  2. Corporate IT groups will try to force feed these things on users, who will continue to scream for an iPad (or to just use the one they already own). Consumers will have no interest.

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  3. The greatest barrier to adoption is simply the services gluing the devices and systems together. Both Apple and Google have “opinions” on how these things go together, Android with Google Docs, and Apple with iTunes.

    It sounds like MS can’t quite figure out whether Xbox or Windows is its future. It wants the Xbox in the conference room, but doesn’t know what to do with it there. If there is an analogy in this effort Xbox is it. Any limitations of Xbox are software issues, not hardware.

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  4. I love Lenovo thinkpad stuff and Nokia stuff but I don’t mind changing brands if the price/specs are right. Anyway MS will launch a Video service on Monday not a tablet else why would they go to LA?

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  5. No, unless they improve their Marketplace for apps.

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  6. Lindsworth Horatio Deer Friday, June 15, 2012

    Microsoft making a Tablet is not a good idea. It needs to focus more on improving its browser and boosting adoption of Windows 8. Microsoft needs to understand that Tablets are a distraction which has take out HP RIM, killed Netbooks and is putting the “hurt”, so to speak, on Dell, Intel and RIM, now filing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.

    Build good Ecosystems first from the Ground up with Developer support for Web apps. Then make a simple Tablet with good Connectivity and a single USB 3.0 port. Content adoption and Corporate loyalty to Microsoft corporate suite of products will push in eventually in the Consumer Market!!

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  7. Paul Sweeting Saturday, June 16, 2012

    I agree Kevin. I think Foley is closer to the mark. My guess is that this will be an extension of the Xbox Live platform to an e-reader/tablet, possibly even branded as Xbox and bundled with SkyDrive storage. I think we saw the first hint of Microsoft’s plan to expand its entertainment platform beyond the Xbox console at E3, with the introduction of SmartGlass, which incorporates non-Windows mobile devices into the Xbox ecosystem. Having its own Xbox Live tablet would be a logical complementary step.

    A tablet based on Xbox Live, probably running Windows RT (or even Win Phone, as Foley suggests), would also minimize conflict with OEM’s planning to make Win 8-based tablets, ultrabooks and transformers.

    I think the target here is Kindle Fire more than iPad.

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  8. Is that what they are announcing on monday??? I was expecting some real news :p

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