Microsoft has confirmed that iPad-style tablet computers running its Windows operating system will be launched ahead of the lucrative Christmas shopping period.
Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, used a rare UK speech to emphasise his company’s commitment to competing with rivals in the tablet space.
“As a company, we need to cover all form factors,” he told an audience of students, alumni and press at the London School of Economics.
“We’ve done work on a Windows tablet, and you’ll see slates with Windows on from this Christmas.”
The tablet computing market is estimated to be worth $2bn by 2012.
Many consumer electronics manufacturers are working on tablet computers, including HP, and Apple has enjoyed huge success with the iPad.
Many tablets, such as the Dell Streak, are based on Google’s Android operating system, and Microsoft is thought to be keen to ensure it has a foothold in this burgeoning market from the outset.
Microsoft could use next Monday’s Windows Phone 7 press conference to reveal more details about its tablet ambitions.
Technology site Neowin.net reports that sources close to Microsoft have hinted that the company will use the event to outline its plans for a series of slate-like devices running the Windows operating system.
Ballmer also used his speech at LSE to outline Microsoft’s cloud computing ambitions. He said that web-enabled smart devices, combined with cloud-based software, services and data, would enable users to access and share a wealth of information.
“The cloud gets smarter every day,” he said. “People are demanding smarter devices that connect to that cloud in intelligent ways.
“I love where we are in the cloud. I feel we’re ahead of whoever the closest second rival is.”
Ballmer also addressed the issue of patents and copyright, and argued that patent laws needed to be overhauled to better meet the needs of modern business.
“Is the patent system perfect? No, it’s not. We think patent law ought to be reformed to reflect modern times.
“The pharmaceutical industry and the IT and software industries didn’t exist when patent law was written – reform could help them do more than they [currently] can.”