It’s been a roller coaster year for Microsoft – the releases of the new Windows 8 operating system and flagship tablet the Surface were met with mixed reviews by critics and consumers.
But the company now seems to have gained another ally in the battle for a share of the $63.2 billion tablet market.
According to insiders, Taiwanese electronics giant HTC is busy working on two new devices which will run on Windows 8 – a 12-inch tablet and a 7-inch version that can also make phone calls.
The new tablets will go head-to-head with Microsoft’s own-brand Surface but will still be a boon for Microsoft as they will operate on its new system.
The tablets will be powered by Windows RT, which is the slate-centric version of Windows 8 used by the Surface. The notable difference is Windows RT only lets you install programs through Microsoft’s app shop. Both tablets will be powered by ARM-based processors from Qualcomm.
The new products are expected to debut in 2013 and will mean Windows 8 makes its first foray into the 7-inch market, unless there are more new releases. It will put Microsoft in a better position to compete with the likes of the iPad Mini, Kindle Fire and Google Nexus 7 in the market for smaller, more affordable tablets. But, if the HTC 7-inch does have call capability as expected, the components needed could push prices up.
Users who opt for the slate with voice call capabilities would likely make calls via Bluetooth, or use the tablet as a speaker phone as holding a 7-inch device to your device would be unwieldy to say the least.
HTC and Microsoft have so far declined to comment. But analysts are predicting the new devices will be released in the third quarter of next year.
HTC was reportedly barred by Microsoft from taking part in the first round of Windows 8 devices, with the first raft including Dell, Acer, ASUS, Hewlett-Packard and Samsung.
But now it could be a case of HTC and Microsoft helping each other out as, not only have Surface sales reportedly been disappointing, but HTC was forecasting fourth-quarter revenue this year that would mark its lowest sales in 11 quarters. It seems Microsoft is keen to broaden distribution for its new platform.
So far, Microsoft has said it had sold from than 40 million Windows 8 licenses but has not commented on Surface sales. Analysts have, however, said that they are running below expectations with experts at brokerage firm Detwiler Fenton estimating sales at between 500,000 and 600,000 units since the Surface launched at the end of October.
For HTC, it will be the second time it has dipped its toes in the tablet market. Its existing HTC Flyer has a 7-inch display and superfast 1.5GHz processor.
With researchers predicting that the tablet market will be worth $123.5 billion by 2015, it’s no wonder HTC and Microsoft are gearing up to take a bigger slice of the pie. Whether consumers have an appetite for the new tablets will be seen in 2013.