Speaking to financial analysts today, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer indicated that Microsoft plans to be a major player in the tablet computing arena, and that tablet or slate computers based on Intel’s forthcoming “Oak Trail” low-voltage processor architecture would be available in 2011. In the meantime, OEMs like Toshiba, Fujitsu, Acer, Asus, Sony, Lenovo, Dell, and Samsung are working on having a wide variety of Windows 7-based tablets available to consumers in time for the 2010 end-of-year holiday buying season.
Intel’s “Oak Trail” platform is an evolution of its Atom processor platform, currently widely used in netbook computers. Intel claims “Oak Trail” processors will use about half the power of current Atom solutions—making them a good fit for tablets and other portable devices—while still supporting 1080p high definition video playback and HDMI output. Intel says Oak Trail system-on-a-chip solutions will support now only Windows 7, but also Google’s Android mobile platform and MeeGo, the open source mobile operating system Intel is currently developing with Nokia.
Ballmer also indicted that he believes Windows slates will quickly dominate the tablet market once they go on sale. “We’ve got the application base, we’ve got the user familiarity, we’ve got everything in our favor,” Ballmer said. Ballmer also conceded Apple has sold more iPad devices than he would have preferred.
The Microsoft CEO’s remarks echo statements he made earlier this month at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference, where Microsoft first revealed a list of OEMs working on Windows 7 tablets.
Despite demonstrating a HP-built Windows 7-based slate computer very publicly at January’s 2010 Consumer Electronics Show, the Windows marketplace has yet to respond to Apple’s iPad tablet computer, which has sold more than three million units and is not launching in international markets. HP has since said it does not plan to make a Windows 7 slate for the consumer market—although the company has said it plans to develop tablets based on its recently-acquired webOS from Palm. HP says it will roll out Windows 7 tablets for enterprise customers.