Microsoft's tablet strategy (or complete lack thereof) has drawn significant criticism
, but the rumor mill suggests the manufacturer may take unprecedented steps to establish itself as a player in this space. DigiTimes, quoting unspecified industry sources, claims Microsoft may build and market its own tablet. MS is allegedly cooperating with Texas Instruments to design and market the device and plans to compete against its own industry partners.
If true, it wouldn't be the first time Microsoft has tossed its hat into the hardware ring, but the company's track record in this area is anything but good. Its keyboard/mouse products have performed well, but the Zune
ultimately failed to gain
traction against the iPod, while the Kin family of smartphones were abysmal failures.
The report claims that Microsoft would design its own tablet while simultaneously encouraging other manufacturers to develop their own products. As conflicts of interests go, that's not one we'd categorize as subtle. It's not in Microsoft's
own best interests to create such a scenario, particularly given the fact that Windows 8 has yet to prove itself. Given the
popularity of Android, Microsoft may find itself fighting for market share in an already-established field.
It's also possible that MS is working on tablets more as proof-of-concept products than shipping devices. It makes perfect sense for MS to be cooperating with Texas Instruments--the latter's OMAP SoC family could be used to demonstrate performance on current hardware. Intel's 32nm Medfield is another prototype option. Tablets may have strained the Intel/Microsoft relationship, but Redmond is hardly going to ignore the potential x86 market.
It's one thing to say Microsoft is considering a tablet and something altogether different to claim it's actually planning
to launch one. It's a strategy that might make sense if Redmond felt OEMs weren't interested in Windows 8 products, but competing with one's partners is rarely a good idea. It might not bite Microsoft in the short term, but OEMs are notoriously gun shy about adopting products that leave them beholden to any single supplier. It does MS no good to build a tablet OS if it can't generate momentum around it.