by Shane O'Neill

Windows 7 Tablets: How Long Can Microsoft Wait?

Sep 30, 2010
Data Center

A new report questions Microsoft's ability to release Windows 7 tablet PCs on time. Can Redmond get away with a tablet delay?

Microsoft’s chances of releasing Windows 7 tablet PCs for the holidays or even early 2011 has come under fire in an analyst report from investment banking firm Jeffries.

Quotes from the report by analyst Katherine Egbert first appeared in a Silicon Alley Insider story on Thursday. Egbert forecasted a mid-2011 release for Windows 7 tablets after meeting with Microsoft’s General Manager of Investor Relations, a pretty rock-solid source if you ask me.

However, when I asked Microsoft for comment a company spokesperson said that Egbert’s report is a prediction based on her opinion rather than any fixed release dates offered up by Microsoft.

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Regarding Windows tablets, Microsoft stands by what Steve Ballmer said in July at the company’s FAM 2010 (Financial Analyst Meeting), which is that some tablets will be coming this year, but that some devices will wait for pending technologies such as Intel’s Oak Trail processors.

Nevertheless, analyst Egbert foresees a hold up, contending that Windows 7 is not tablet-ready right now and it’s mostly a chip issue. “Windows 7 is not currently supported on Qualcomm’s popular SnapDragon processor … and Intel’s low power Atom-based Oak Trail processor for tablets is not due out until March 2011,” the report states.

Egbert’s report also states that these tablet-friendly processors are worth waiting for rather than risk releasing Windows 7 on the existing Atom chips and have it not run well on tablets.

The way it stands now, Windows 7 tablet PCs from hardware makers such as Hewlett-Packard, Asus and MSI are scheduled to release before the end of the year or in early 2011. And some Windows 7 models, such as one from manufacturer Hanvon, are already available in foreign markets. ViewSonic’s Windows 7-based ViewPad is scheduled for a European release in October. But the Jeffries report makes you wonder how well these tablets will run.

Given the way the tablet market is heating up, Microsoft will have a problem if Windows 7 tablets are still MIA in the spring of 2011. Enthusiasm is reaching a fever pitch. The iPad, available since April, is selling well at 3 million copies and counting; a variety of Android-based tablets will be available between now and the end of the year; and RIM just unveiled its BlackBerry Playbook tablet for businesses, available in early 2011.

By next June, tablets will be everywhere and the iPad will be over a year old and fending off worthy Android competitors. If Windows 7 is just walking in the door at that time, it will be the Microsoft slowpoke syndrome all over again, just like with MP3 players (Zune) and smartphones (Windows Phone 7).

What do you think? Can Microsoft afford to delay Windows 7 tablets in a market this hot?

Shane O’Neill covers Microsoft, Windows, Operating Systems, Productivity Apps and Online Services for Follow Shane on Twitter @smoneill. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline. Email Shane at