There's been a lot of speculation that Windows 8 may ship earlier than expected -- as early as the middle of June 2012. But now a well-known Microsoft analyst says that Windows 8 devices may not be ready until 2013, which would put a serious crimp in Microsoft's attempt to make headway in the tablet market.
Both Samsung and Nokia have said they may have Windows 8 tablets by the second half of next year, possibly as early as June. Kyu Ho, head of sales and marketing for Samsung's computer business, told Bloomberg that Samsung expects to start selling a Windows 8 tablet some time in the second half of the year. And Paul Amsellem, the head of Nokia France said "In June 2012 we will have a tablet running Windows 8," in interview with French paper Les Echos.
But well-known analyst Michael Cherry at the research firm Directions on Microsoft says he believes that Windows 8 devices won't ship until 2013. He told Reuters:
"I believe there will be a RTM somewhere in the last quarter of 2012. Traditionally there's been a 90-day gap between RTM and general availability. To me, that means machine availability in 2013."
Here's how he explains why Samsung and Nokia have both said they'll have devices earlier than that:
"How I choose to interpret that is: they'll have a set of hardware requirements from Microsoft at that time, they will build the machines based on the Windows 8 requirements, but they will initially sell them with Windows 7 on them. They may or may not include a coupon that says you get a free Windows 8 if and when it ships."
That makes some sense. Given that Windows 8 is still only a developer preview, it's hard to imagine seeing any shipping devices as early as mid 2012.
As to Cherry's belief that Windows 8 devices won't be ready until early 2013, there's no way right now to know whether it's true. Microsoft would certainly want them to be ready earlier than that, in time for the 2012 holiday buying season, about a year from now.
Releasing Windows 8 in 2013 would make it that much more difficult for Microsoft to make any headway in the tablet market. The iPad, for now, has the traditional tablet market all but sewn up, but in the next year, expect Android tablets to make serious inroads, because of their wide-ranging prices and form factors. And the just-released Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet will make it that much difficult for Microsoft to gain tablet market share. By 2013, both those devices will be at least a generation or possibly two older, and may well add more traditional tablet features to the e-reader basics.
The upshot: If Cherry is right, it'll be that much tougher for Windows 8 tablets to succeed.