Windows 8 Due In October But With Limited Low-Cost iPad-Competing Tablets

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Windows 8 versus iPad with iOS 5
Windows 8 versus iPad with iOS 5

According to a new report, Microsoft will launch Windows 8 this October. That tracks with the company’s announced plan to launch the latest version of Windows before the end of the. The launch will include traditional PCs like desktops and notebook as well as tablets. How successful Microsoft and its partners will be in taking business and consumer tablet marketshare away from the iPad remains an open question, however.

The report, published by Bloomberg, indicates that the company will host an event for its strategic partners next month. At that event, Microsoft will partners and PC makers additional information about the launch including timing and marketing initiatives.

Low-cost tablets based on ARM processors have been a constant theme of the Windows 8 story and appear to be the devices that Microsoft will be positioning as iPad alternatives for both consumers and businesses. Despite that, Microsoft will be focusing on Windows 8 running on Intel-based systems including desktops, notebooks, and tablets. The report indicates that more than 40 Intel-powered devices will be part of the launch while there will only be four ARM-based tablets at most.

Getting devices out in time for the holiday shopping season is going to be key to establishing low-cost Windows on ARM devices as a true iPad competitor in the consumer space. Last year’s big ticket items included iPads (which helped push Apple to a phenomenal holiday quarter) and e-reader tablets like the Kindle Fire. Given the head start Apple already has, Microsoft can’t afford to lose another holiday shopping season to the iPad.

Whether Windows on ARM tablets will make a serious dent in the business sector is a big question. Despite the fact that these devices will run a variation of Windows and will include Office, they won’t include any real enterprise functionality. In a strange reversal of roles, the iPad will actually pack more enterprise capability than Windows on ARM devices.

Intel-based Windows 8 devices, however, will come packed with enterprise features, though Intel-based Windows 8 tablets aren’t expected to match the iPad’s price points. If they offer competition to the iPad, it will be on functionality and integration with technologies like Active Directory and Windows Server.

That places the iPad in the middle of the field of Windows tablets and it makes it difficult to make accurate predictions at this point. It seems a forgone conclusion that Apple will strengthen its lead between now and October following the record-breaking launch of the new iPad and the price reduction of the iPad 2. It’s also worth noting that most IT departments are likely to follow a more delayed upgrade schedule when it comes to Windows 8 as they have with previous Windows releases. For desktops and notebooks, some organizations may hold at Windows 7 for months or years after the Windows 8 release.