Microsoft set to announce tablet version of Windows

Microsoft Corp. is set to announce a tablet version of its Windows OS at the Consumer Electronics Show next month, according to separate articles from Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal. 

The reconfigured OS will run on processors from chip maker Arm, according to the reports.

Microsoft already has one OS written for Arm chips, Windows CE, which is designed for use in embedded systems. The company in June said it has plans to release the next version of this OS, called Windows Embedded Compact 7, in early 2011. This version of the OS will be targeted for devices such as set-top boxes and slates, company officials said.

Neither news report specified if this new Arm-based version of Windows would be based on Windows Embedded Compact, on Windows 7 itself, or whether it is an entirely new code base altogether.

Microsoft did not respond immediately to comment.

Last July, Microsoft signed a licensing deal with Arm that would allow the software giant to design its own Arm-based chips, much like the Apple designed the A4 chip for its iPad.

Microsoft has been criticized for not capitalizing on the growing market for tablet computers, now dominated by Apple. Research firm Gartner has estimated that 54.8 million tablets will be purchased in 2011. At the 2010 CES show, CEO Steve Ballmer promised that Windows-based, iPad-like tablets would be released in the upcoming year. None thus far have been released though, apart from the HP Slate, which was designed for office use.

Arm chips consume relatively little power and so are ideal for portable battery-run devices such as tablets. Apple uses Arm chips for the iPad, as do various smart phone manufacturers.

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