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Windows Tablet Outlook: Next-Gen Arriving Fall 2012?

Microsoft is planning to roll out a version of Windows for tablets during the 2012 school season, according to unnamed sources cited by Bloomberg media.

The sources may be referring to "Windows Next," a term Microsoft has used to describe a next-generation OS that will run on system-on-a-chip architecture, including ARM-based ones, on PCs. Allegedly code-named "Windows 8," Windows Next may be the successor to Windows 7. Based on a purportedly leaked chart, Microsoft observers such as veteran reporter Mary-Jo Foley have speculated at a mid-2012 release for Windows 8.

Microsoft employees appear to use the nomenclature of both Windows 8 and "Windows.Next" to describe their work publicly, according to a ZDNet article, which hunted down the references. In any case, it would not be a surprise if Microsoft released its next-generation OS in late 2012: Windows 7 was released in October 2009 and Microsoft generally follows a three-year release cycle for its desktop Windows releases.

Windows 7 is already deployed on tablets manufactured by Microsoft hardware partners. Products include the ASUS EP121-1A011M tablet shown off at the January Consumer Electronics Show and the HP Slate 500 Tablet PC. In addition, some device makers have rolled out tablets for the health-care industry based on Windows 7, including Motion, TabletKiosk, Tangent and Panasonic, according to a Microsoft blog.

One alternative avenue, putting Windows Embedded on tablets, seems not to be happening on the consumer front. Microsoft has different sets of codebases for its Windows Embedded OSes, some of which are used for industrial handheld devices. It's not clear why Microsoft hasn't moved to put Windows Embedded on tablets, although an article by Business Insider's Matt Rosoff, formerly an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, noted that Microsoft gets greater revenue per unit for its flagship desktop OS than for its embedded OSes.

In other words, Microsoft could sell Windows Embedded Compact 7, released in early March, to OEMs for inclusion on tablets today. However, if it did so, Microsoft would lose those higher Windows desktop OS revenues, Rosoff contends.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.