Step off Android. Dell and Hewlett-Packard announced plans to release tablets running Windows 8 about a year from now, according to a story in Digitimes.\n\tThis is not earth-shattering news given that both companies have publicly said they are more committed to enterprise services than personal computers. Heck, HP barely has a computers division anymore. PCs and are not where these two big boys make their gravy.\n\tBut it does indicate a commitment to Windows on tablets in the wake of Amazon's shake up of the Android market with its extremely affordable Kindle Fire ($199). Other Android tablets such as the Motorola Xoom have dropped prices recently as they struggle to compete with the mighty iPad.\n\tDell CEO Michael Dell said last week that Dell is "very aligned with Microsoft around Windows 8" and that the Android tablet market "has not been developed to the expectations" that Dell had.\n\tToday at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, Dell was quoted as saying: "Right now it's an iPad market. The Android stuff has not done fantastically well. I think I'm being fair."\n\tThat is fair. Android tablets have not quite been a bust, but they have not competed with the iPad the way that Android smartphones have competed and prevailed over the iPhone.\n\tWhether or not Android fatigue led Dell to its Windows 8 tablet commitment, it still should be sweet music to Microsoft's ears, arguably sweeter than HP's similar plans.\n\tAfter HP announced this summer that it was breaking off its PC division, it dumped its embattled WebOS tablets in a very public fire sale. Shortly after that the company fired its CEO. So it's tough to put any stock in HP's laptop\/tablet plans right now. But if a big player like Samsung buys up HP's hardware and gets cozy with Windows 8 on tablets, that would be quite the boon for Microsoft.\n\tWindows 8, scheduled for general release sometime in the second half of 2012, is being designed from the ground up with a touchscreen interface to work on tablets. The advantage of a successful Windows 8 tablet is that it could blur the lines between your work and home computing life, as Microsoft aims to have a floating Windows OS compatible across Windows tablets, laptops and desktops.\n\tBut then again, Microsoft is unproven in the tablet space (Windows 7 just wasn't built for it) and the Windows Phone 7 Metro user interface that will be the look and feel of Windows 8 has not been able to pull Windows Phone 7 out of the smartphone basement.\n\tA larger and more imposing question: How can anyone beat the iPad? Apple announced its Q4 2011 earnings today and sold 11.1 million iPads this quarter and 32.4 million for the year. Since the iPad released in April 2010, Apple has sold 40 million iPads to date.\n\tIn a word: humbling.\n\tDell and HP will be just a start. Microsoft needs an army of hardware makers to catch those iPad numbers.