Android, Windows square off in tablet arena

Tablet computing appears to be the latest white-hot battleground among the world's major computer, silicon and software makers, as asustek eee pad windwscompanies including Intel, Qualcomm (NSYE:QCOM), Asustek, Microsoft, Google and Compal rush to beat out a position in the space. The actions follow hot on the heels of the massive success of Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad, and could represent another major source of revenues for mobile operators intent on providing wide area wireless connectivity to tablet users.

Tablet announcements were the topic du jour at this year's Computex trade show in Taipei, Taiwan. Among the major announcements:

  • Intel announced plans to offer chips specially tailored for tablet devices. The chips, codenamed Oak Trail, will be based on Intel's Atom processors for netbooks but will offer additional power savings.
  • Asustek Computer showed off its new Eee Pad tablet running Microsoft's Windows 7 operating system, for release early next year. Asustek said it plans to introduce an applications storefront to support the device.
  • And contract manufacturer Compal said it is building tablets running Windows, Google's Android and MeeGo, the platform from Nokia (NYSE:NOK) and Intel. "We have a lot of customers that are very interested in tablets," said Ray Chen, president and CEO of Compal, according to IDG News Service. "Demand is getting better and better because of the iPad."

Indeed, Apple announced it sold more than 2 million of its iPad tablets within 60 days of introducing the gadget. The company's success appears to have lit a fire under the world's computing companies casting about for new sources of income.

However, the tablet market remains wide open--Google's Android platform looks poised to go head to head against Microsoft's Windows 7 as vendors make their software choices. Already, Microsoft executives are discounting the threat of Android, which has made massive inroads in the smartphone market. Microsoft's Steve Guggenheimer compared the still-blooming tablet market to that of netbooks. When netbooks were introduced three years ago, "It was 95 percent not on Windows, and three years later it is 95 percent on Windows," Guggenheimer told the Wall Street Journal.

While computer makers struggle to cash in on the tablet opportunity, wireless carriers may well benefit from the effort. AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) provides 3G service in the United States for Apple's iPad, and the introduction of additional tablets could represent a similar opportunity for additional operators.

For more:
- see this FierceDeveloper article on Nvidia
- see this WSJ article on Intel's new chips (sub. req.)
- see this WSJ article on Asustek
- see this WSJ article on Microsoft
- see this Computerworld article on Compal

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