updated 03:34 pm EDT, Fri June 15, 2012
Microsoft-made device said to run Windows RT
The "major announcement" Microsoft has planned for next week may well be focused on its own branded tablet. Sources knowledgeable of the company's operations have told entertainment news site The Wrap that the event, scheduled for Monday afternoon somewhere in Los Angeles, will be the coming out party for a Windows RT tablet.
A branded tablet would represent something of a departure for Microsoft. Typically, the company has stayed out of the fray when it comes to manufacturing computing devices, preferring instead to license its Windows and Windows Phone operating systems across multiple manufacturers. The dominance of Apple's iPad—and, to a lesser extent, Android tablets—in the tablet sector, though, may have pushed Microsoft to explore hardware development.
While a branded computing device would be new for the company, it would not be Microsoft's first foray into hardware manufacturing. Its Xbox and Xbox 360 consoles have cemented the company's status as a major power in the gaming sector, and Microsoft has been looking to turn the Xbox 360 into the cornerstone of the living-room computing experience. The company recently announced a SmartGlass app that will allow the Xbox 360 to interact with users' tablets; and Microsoft's NUads interactive ad program is aimed at attracting advertisers to the growing number of users who watch television on their game consoles.
Not all of the company's hardware attempts have been successful, though. Microsoft previously went head-to-head with Apple in the mobile media-player sector, with its late-arriving Zune devices. The Zune was never able to grab enough market share to seriously contend with the iPod, and Microsoft killed off the brand late last year.
Two years ago, Microsoft confirmed that it was working on a dual-screen tablet called the Courier. The device garnered attention and interest, but the project was eventually terminated when former CEO Bill Gates expressed a lack of confidence in its capabilities. In nixing the Courier, the company noted that some aspects of its functionality might appear in future products.
It is unknown what impact a possible Microsoft tablet would have on the company's manufacturing partners. Partners such as HP and Dell have already announced Windows tablets due this fall. Should Microsoft announce its own competing hardware on Monday, those manufacturers could find themselves in a situation similar to Google's Android partners, which are said to wonder if the search giant's acquisition of Motorola means they will have to compete with the very company that provides them with an operating system.