Microsoft appears to be preparing to launch an own-brand tablet running a new version of Windows in an effort to compete with Apple’s iPad.
An invitation to an event in Los Angeles last night sent out by the software company late on Thursday — but lacking venue details — has sparked expectation that the software giant is now ready to take on Apple’s dominance in the tablet market.
This would be a dramatic break from Microsoft’s usual moves in computer hardware, where it develops the software and licenses that to hardware makers to ensure the broadest possible market.
However, Microsoft has fallen behind Apple and Google in the fast-growing tablet market — already one-eighth as large as the PC market and forecast to be 40 percent by 2016. The fastest growth in tablet sales is in western countries, where PC sales are slowing, reducing sales in the Windows division in four of the past six quarters. Windows 8, to be released this year, is designed to be used on tablets and desktops.
“If Microsoft wants to control the entire user experience, they have to build their own hardware,” said Michael Cherry, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, a Redmond-based market research firm.
The location of last night’s event, near Hollywood, could indicate that Microsoft might announce a content deal using its new SmartGlass app, which bridges the gap between the TV and the smartphone or tablet.
The timing of the launch would also spike Google’s guns. The search giant is expected to unveil an own-brand tablet at its Input/Output event on Wednesday next week, although Microsoft’s forays into own-branded products have had mixed success. Microsoft has declined to comment.