Microsoft's Steven Sinofsky will reportedly show Windows 8 running on a Samsung tablet next week during Microsoft's BUILD developers' conference in California from September 13-16.
As one unnamed source specifies, this will be the South Korea-based company's first collaboration with the Windows/Xbox giant in its hardware device division. Analysts believe this collaboration is part of Samsung's strategy to pull away from relying solely on Google's Android operating system which currently saturates its portfolio of smartphones and tablets.
"It's a big deal," said Todd Lowenstein, portfolio manager at HighMark Capital Management, which holds Microsoft shares. "Investors are hungry to see how [Microsoft is] going to join where the market's going. They've been lagging and they need to catch up and surpass what's going on, to demonstrate they truly are an innovative company."
This won't be the first time Microsoft has officially unveiled a tablet. Bill Gates introduced the first model during the Comdex tech show back in November 2001, but it was much too large for consumers to catch on. The company didn't reveal another tablet design again until Ballmer's CES presentation of the HP model back in 2010, but that never landed on the market.
That said, new Windows 8 tablets aren't expected to land on store shelves for another 12 months. By then, an army of new Android "Ice Cream Sandwich" tablets will have invaded the market, and Apple will likely have released its third-generation iPad. Given the industry's quick shift in focus to mobile computing (and its subsequent rapid growth), there's quite a lot riding on Microsft's development of its modular Windows 8 platform and how it will perform on tablets twelve months down the road.
"Windows 8 might actually matter if they can do the touch-screen innovation," said Michael Yoshikami, Chief Executive of fund manager YCMNET Advisors. "Otherwise Windows 8 is just Windows 7 with one more number."
But Microsoft will need more than just a cool OS running on the portable hardware. Like Apple, Microsoft will need a strong mobile ecosystem. The company is hard at work creating the supporting environment, bridging together its PC, console and smartphones platforms. Xbox LIVE is already a part of Windows Phone 7, and will be integrated into Windows 8. The company is also working on an integrated Windows App Store that is expected to reel in developers currently creating apps for iOS and Android over to a Windows environment spanning all four hardware environments.
"Five years ago I would have said 80 percent of the startups or ventures who came to pitch us pulled out their laptop and started showing us their PowerPoint presentation," said Matt McIlwain, managing director at Seattle-based venture capital firm Madrona Venture Group. "Now 80 percent pull out their Mac. If I were Steve Ballmer, that would be concerning to me."
There's no question that a lot of hype surrounds Windows 8, especially after Microsoft showed the upcoming OS and Office components running on ARM SoCs at CES 2011 back in January.