A Microsoft slate to counter Apple’s popular iPad tablet computer will be seen by the Christmas holiday, Microsoft’s Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said on Tuesday.
“You’ll see new slates with Windows on them. You’ll see them this Christmas,” Steve Ballmer told an audience of students, staff and journalists at the London School of Economics.
He continued: “Certainly we have done work around the tablet as both a productivity device and a consumption device.”
However, Steve Ballmer did not say whether Microsoft tablets would actually be on sale in time for Christmas, nor did he say who would make them.
Microsoft has been slow to respond to the Apple’s iPad, and has also made little headway in mobile phones.
IT research firm Gartner expects 10 million tablet PCs to be sold this year as consumers begin embracing such devices, which include Dell’s Streak and Asustek’s Eee Pad. The Apple alone sold 3.3 million iPads in first quarter.
The tablet computing market is estimated to be worth $2 billion by 2012. Many consumer electronics manufacturers are working on tablet computers, including HP, and Apple has enjoyed huge success with the iPad.
Many tablets, such as the Dell Streak, are based on Google’s Android operating system, and Microsoft is thought to be keen to ensure it has a foothold in this burgeoning market from the outset.
Microsoft has also failed to make much headway in the smartphone market, where rivals like Apple and HTC are growing fast, while Research in Motion captured the corporate market with its BlackBerry.
Microsoft’s Windows phone software had 8.7 percent of the smartphone market last year and that is expected to decline to 3.9 percent by 2014, according to Gartner.
However, Microsoft could use next Monday’s Windows Phone 7 press conference to reveal more details about its tablet ambitions.
Popular technology blog Neowin.net reports that sources close to the company have hinted that Microsoft will use the event to outline its plans for a series of slate-like devices running the Windows operating system.
Ballmer also used his speech at LSE to outline Microsoft’s cloud computing ambitions. He said that web-enabled smart devices, combined with cloud-based software, services and data, would enable users to access and share a wealth of information.
“The cloud gets smarter every day,” he said. “People are demanding smarter devices that connect to that cloud in intelligent ways. “I love where we are in the cloud. I feel we’re ahead of whoever the closest second rival is.”
Ballmer also addressed the issue of patents and copyright, and argued that patent laws needed to be overhauled to better meet the needs of modern business. “Is the patent system perfect? No, it’s not. We think patent law ought to be reformed to reflect modern times.
“The pharmaceutical industry and the IT and software industries didn’t exist when patent law was written – reform could help them do more than they [currently] can.” [via Daily Telegraph (UK), Yahoo! News and NeoWin]