By Jonathan Charles | Jun 18, 2012 10:58 AM EDT
Microsoft's June 18 keynote, which begins 3:30PM PDT, isn't specifying what's going to be announced but many have speculated - and heard - the company will be unveiling a first-party tablet. The move may be a surprise to some, but Microsoft has the right ingredients to build an iPad rival.
The Windows Store marks a change from previous versions of Windows, offering a dedicated place for downloading apps both free and paid. It's a move geared towards the introduction of Metro and Windows 8's push towards tablets. But the question is whether Microsoft can get developers on-board. The company has struggled to maintain development on Windows Phone, but Windows is a different beast and integrating its mobile and desktop/tablet OS could leverage developers on both sides and provide the high-quality and active app ecosystem only Apple has managed to provide.
If Microsoft is positioning the tablet as a rival to the iPad, the company will also need to show contemporary hardware. From the original to the new iPad, Apple has refined the device's dimensions - the new iPad is 7.1 inches thick, and the Wi-Fi-only model weighs 1.44 lbs/650 g - to the point where it's ultra-thin. Microsoft needs to do the same, and utilising the Nokia partnership and the company's Lumia designs may provide the answer.
Another expected feature in the iPad and Kindle Fire is that both tablets offer consistent performance, a reason Android has failed thus far in the space, and PCs sometimes have a reputation for becoming bloated over time. With Microsoft offering the desktop and Metro versions of Windows 8, it needs to show that using the tablet is consistent in performance - in terms of running apps - and consistently performs well regarding the user experience.
Despite the Xbox SmartGlass app being met with some apathy at Microsoft's E3 2012 conference, the technology allows users to gain added context on TV shows and interact with games from the tablet. Along with its partnerships with Hulu and ESPN, for example, integrating the media services that allowed the Xbox 360 to become more than a gaming device could be a big win over Apple.
The Xbox Live integration into Windows Phone allows user to do everything the Xbox can, aside from playing games and using media apps, and could be the major competition to the games on the iOS App Store. Games on Windows Phone don't offer the full console experience the Xbox 360 provides. Offering those experiences on a tablet would be true competition for Apple's App Store, which has seen games such as N.O.V.A from Gameloft and Infinity Blade from Epic Games. A mobile version of Call of Duty or Lollipop Chainsaw, which released June 12 in the U.S., would be a major pull.
Of course Microsoft may reveal something different, from a Hulu buyout - the company is in Los Angeles - or a Windows Phone 8 announcement. The conference begins 3:30PM PDT, June 18.
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