Is November Win 8 Tablet Release Too Late?

If Intel-based Windows 8 tablets launch in November, as one informed source expects, Microsoft would face a narrow window to play a role in the important holiday sales period.

"Windows-based tablet makers must hit the holiday selling season or face a real crisis," said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates. "The tablet market on Windows won't really take off until Windows 8. Microsoft needs to get in the game in the short term."

Microsoft would be better off if Windows 8-based tablets start shipping before November, several analysts said.

The November release was touted by the informed source in a story posted yesterday on tech news site CNET.

Half of the Intel chip-based Windows 8 OS tablet devices will be hybrids that include both physical keyboards and tablet touchscreens, the CNET source said.

Intel and Microsoft could not be reached to comment on the report.

Processors for Windows RT-based tablets are expected from ARM chip makers Nvidia, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments later this year. Intel CEO Paul Otellini told investors last week that PC makers are designing 20 Windows 8 tablets based on Intel chips.

The new Intel-based Windows 8 tablets will run a low-power, 32-nanometer Atom chip dubbed Clover Trail.

While Microsoft and the chip and tablet hardware makers need to hurry to market, Gold said they also need to produce quality machines with features that consumers and enterprises want.

"They have to get Win 8 right, as they will have only one chance in mobile," Gold added. "If it's a flop, it will be very hard to recover in tablets, and Microsoft will be basically handing the market to Apple."

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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