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Microsoft Plans New Windows Version for Tablets

Tech enthusiasts who have been flummoxed by Microsoft's slower-than-molasses reactions to new market trends such as motion gaming (Wii, 2006) smartphones (iPhone, 2007), and tablet computing (iPad, 2010) got a bit of good news this week: According to a Bloomberg report, the software giant is finally porting its Windows operating system to non-PC, thin and light hardware systems, opening up core product line to a new generation of devices.

Halleluiah! Did Microsoft just get its mojo back?

Not quite. This alleged new version of Windows won't ship for another two years, or after the expected release date for the next traditional version of Windows, which is indeed called Windows 8 internally at Microsoft.

According to the report, Microsoft is finally and belatedly porting Windows to non-PC chipsets, specifically those made by ARM. These chipsets can be used in everything from smartphones to tablet-like devices similar to the iPad, and use a lot less power—and thus also get much better battery life—than devices based on PC-style chipsets from Intel or AMD.

The report also notes that Microsoft will preview this new system at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas early next month. Typically, CES announcements are made for products that will ship in time for the next holiday season (i.e., late 2011), but ARM-based Windows systems won't appear until late 2012.

That sounds OK until you realize that Apple could have delivered its fourth generation iPad by that point, based on its current product release cycles.

The Bloomberg report suggests that Microsoft is attempting to implement a change to Windows that I recently recommended, and not for the first time, in my article series, How Microsoft Can Fix Windows 8, on the SuperSite for Windows: It is making Windows more modular, or componentized, so that it can more easily be ported to smaller, less capable device platforms, provided a tiered product experience where more capable systems would provide more functionality.

Microsoft will announce its plans for using the ARM platform at a special press event on January 5, 2011, just before CEO Steve Ballmer's keynote address at CES. Yesterday, the company refused a request to discuss these plans, noting that it would be a live announcement only. This is unusual, and suggests something momentous. But various sources have confirmed that this event will indeed be when and where the ARM plans are announced.

Stay tuned.

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