Microsoft will unveil a tablet computer running on Windows RT and manufactured by Microsoft on Monday at a Los Angeles event, according to entertainment Web site TheWrap.com.
Windows RT machines are designed to run on ARM chips, as opposed to a more traditional X86 chip that will be used in Windows 8 tablets said to be coming in the fourth quarter of 2012. ARM is a chip specification that is widely used in smartphones, and Nvidia and several other ARM chip makers are expected to build Windows RT machines.
TheWrap said it learned that the Los Angeles event, at an unnamed venue, will be an unveiling of a Windows RT tablet built by Microsoft from "an individual with knowledge of the company."
The press invitation refers only to an "exclusive Microsoft media event from Microsoft." The company could not be reached immediately to confirm the launch of a company-built tablet.
For Microsoft to build its own tablet would be a major step for the software maker, analysts have said. On Thursday, several analysts cautioned Microsoft not to buy struggling Nokia to build Windows Phone smartphones, noting the difficulties a software company would have in also operating as a hardware company. They noted that Apple, maker of the popular iPad, does well by not manufacturing the product itself. Apple outsources the physical construction of its products but is responsible for the design and technology that's used, allowing it to oversee everything from hardware to the operating system.
Microsoft has for years produced slate-type computers built by Samsung and Hewlett-Packard, among others, that run on prior Windows operating systems and use styluses for input, but they have not gained much traction in the market. Windows RT tablets are built on the Windows 8 OS, which has similarities to the Windows Phone OS with live tiles to group information on the home page. They also have touchscreen capability.
The iPad from Apple has the lion's share of the touch tablet market, and tablet computing is seen as an important new direction that analysts say Microsoft must head. The big news would be if Microsoft produced its own tablet, possibly by working closely with a manufacturer to build a white box version.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is email@example.com.