CIO - When CEO Steve Ballmer gave a quick peek at an HP Slate running Windows 7 at CES in January, Microsoft seemed prepared for battle against the iPad, which, at the time, had not even been announced yet.
But since then, Microsoft's Windows 7 tablet strategy has largely been to spin its wheels as iPad sales surge and Android-based tablets gain increasing momentum, industry analysts say.
Last month at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference, Ballmer said that there will be Windows 7 slates out in time for the holidays, but no firm release dates have been announced yet.
If there are any Windows 7 slates ready to launch this fall, writes veteran Microsoft watcher and ZDNet blogger Mary Jo Foley, expect them to be "business-focused devices that do not have the long battery life, touch-centric user interfaces or built-in app store capabilities" of consumer slates.
In other words, not an iPad competitor.
Meanwhile, the iPad train rolls on. In late June, Apple announced that in the three months the iPad has been available in stores, it has sold three million units. The iPad is also starting to make inroads at enterprises, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article.
The MSI WindPad running Windows 7 has been pushed from a holiday 2010 release to a 2011 release. It sports a 10-inch screen, Intel's latest power-saving CPU platform, 8 hours of battery power and multi-touch control. MSI is also developing an Android WindPad slate that is set to ship before the end of the year.
Also taking the wind out of Microsoft's sails: Hewlett-Packard's $1.2 billion acquisition of Palm in April. Last week, HP announced it will be using Palm's WebOS in a consumer tablet PC set for early next year. But HP is still set to use Windows 7 for its business-oriented line of tablets, though it has not specified timing.
Microsoft must also contend with the many non-iPad tablets running Google's Android mobile OS, which continues to win over more consumers through the popular Droid smartphones. One of the most anticipated Android devices is Samsung's Galaxy Tab, which is smaller than the iPad with a 7-inch screen, but has standout features such as front and rear-facing cameras, video chat and support for Adobe Flash. It's expected to ship this fall.
Other Android-based tablets available now or on the horizon include Cisco's Cius Tablet for businesses, Dell's 5-inch Streak, Toshiba's 10-inch SmartPad and ViewSonic's 10-inch ViewPad device, which can boot either Windows or Android.
Still, it's a long shot that any tablet PCs, Windows or Android, can compete with iPad momentum, says Tim Bajarin, principal strategist at tech consulting firm Creative Strategies, who believes that Microsoft should not even bother to rush Windows 7 tablets for the holidays.
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