Tablet wars becoming intense with Microsoft targeting Windows 8 to de-rail iPad

Microsoft Corp will demonstrate a new version of its Windows operating system that can run handheld touchscreen computers, aimed at narrowing the lead of Apple’s iPad in the market for tablets.

The software maker is taking the wraps off Windows 8 on Tuesday at a conference for developers in California , following a preview of the design in June. The product is an attempt to vault Microsoft into a fast-growing market controlled by Apple and Google’s Android software .
Windows 8
Windows 8

Microsoft is under pressure to put out a new version of Windows capable of running smaller, thinner tablet computers with battery life to rival that of the iPad. In the meantime, Windows sales have missed analysts’ estimates for three straight quarters and personal-computer sales have stalled as consumers favor tablets over notebook computers running the software.

“It’s very important for them to get this right,” said Sid Parakh, an analyst at McAdams Wright Ragen, who suggests buying Microsoft shares. “They can’t compete with what’s out there today in tablets.”

Companies will ship 60 million media tablets in 2011, and 74% of those will be Apple’s iPads, according to an August forecast by IHS Inc. The global market is expected to rise to 275.3 million units in 2015, with Apple forecast to claim 43.6% of the market at that point.

In the quarter that ended in June, Apple sold 9.3 million iPads. About 20% of them went to customers who would have otherwise bought a Windows PC, estimated Colin Gillis , an analyst at BGC Partners LP in New York.

Need to compete

The need to compete has led Microsoft for the first time to offer a Windows computer operating system that runs on chip technology from ARM Holdings Plc. The program is the biggest operatingsystem change Microsoft has made since Windows 95, Microsoft Vice President Julie Larson-Green said in June.

Windows 8’s design resembles Microsoft’s software for mobile phones in its use of digital tiles instead of icons to help users move between programs, according to the June demonstration by Windows President Steven Sinofsky on a 10.6- inch tablet computer .

Sinofsky at the time declined to say when the software would be available, except to note it “won’t be this fall.”

The design of the software is similar to the tile interface on Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 mobile-handset software. Like that program, Windows 8’s tiles can be automatically updated to display information from applications on the computer’s start screen. For example, a weather application can tell users that it is forecast to be sunny without requiring them to open the app.