Microsoft may turn to Windows Phone 7 for its tablet operating system

Microsoft has long maintained that Windows is its operating system of choice for tablets. But there's increasing evidence that Windows Phone 7, not Windows, will be the operating system that Microsoft ultimately turns to in order to compete against the iPad and Android tablets.

In a lengthy interview with ars technica, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was asked about when consumers can expect to see top-notch tablets running a Microsoft operating system. Ballmer replied, in part:

...you're going to see some things that do a very nice job over the course of the next, let's call it year -- you'll see some stuff now, you'll see some stuff after Christmas, you'll see some stuff as we get new Intel chips, you'll see some things as you move Windows Phone along...

That clearly implies that Windows Phone 7 will be the underlying operating system for tablets, even though Ballmer and Microsoft have been saying a long time that Windows will instead be the tablet operating system.

But that wasn't the first time that Ballmer implied that Windows Phone 7, not Windows, will run tablets. Todd Bishop of TechFlash noted this in a recent blog:

Ballmer has said repeatedly that Windows is Microsoft's operating system for slate-style devices. But during an interview on stage at the Gartner Symposium last month, Ballmer made it clear that he's not excluding Windows Phone from that definition when he makes those statements.

Holding up a Windows Phone, he said, "This is Windows, too."

Ballmer was being a bit disingenuous when he said that. The name of the phone operating system may be Windows Phone 7, but it certainly isn't the Windows operating system. It's one designed for mobile devices, optimized for minimal memory, less-powerful processors, and using a touch interface.

For all those reasons, Windows Phone 7 is far more suited for tablets than is Windows. I expect that at some point we'll see an announcement that tablets will run Windows Phone 7 rather than Windows --- and if so, it would be a good move for Microsoft to make.

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