Microsoft May Announce ARM-based Windows for Tablets at CES

Microsoft will reportedly demo a new version of Windows for tablets that is capable of running on chips with ARM Holdings technology at the Consumer Electronics Show, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Microsoft has been planning an ARM-based Windows for some time, anonymous sources told the paper. It's reportedly part of the company's goal of making Windows "modular," so that parts of the OS may be stripped away for portable devices such as tablets. By supporting ARM chips, which currently power most smartphones and tablets, Microsoft hopes to emphasize long battery life in future Windows tablets.

That sounds nice on paper, but don't get too excited yet; although Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer could announce the tablet OS on January 5, the day of Microsoft's CES keynote, the product won't be ready for two years, says the Journal.

In other words, Microsoft could be facing another Windows Phone 7 situation, in which the company finally wises up to the market and creates a respectable mobile OS, but will create an uphill battle for itself by giving Google and Apple a two-year head start.

I don't think the dismissive "too little, too late" argument is appropriate. Slim, consumer-facing tablets are still quite young, and there will be plenty of market share to be had in a couple years. But as we've seen with Windows Phone 7, Microsoft has to play a lot of catch-up just to match its rivals' features.

The timeline does allow for one intriguing possibility: With Windows 8 expected to launch in 2012, we could see a more holistic OS that's suited toward working across PCs, tablets and phones. I'd rather see Microsoft plan for that future than try to stuff Windows 7 into tablets, which most of us should agree is not a good idea.

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