History repeating: is Microsoft making its own tablet?

Unlike Apple who has enjoyed runaway success with hardware and software (especially in the past decade) Microsoft traditionally a software house has had a more mixed run with its hardware endeavours.

Notable examples in recent years include the Zune MP3/media player which was never made available in this country (and which has now evolved generally into the Zune media player software brand) and the Kin range of mobile phones (now absorbed into the Windows Phone OS) which also failed to set the market alight.

Clearly both of these devices can be seen as attempts to enter Apple-dominated markets (going up against the iPod and the iPhone respectively) but it’s outside that arena that Microsoft has enjoyed its greatest hardware success: the Xbox and Xbox 360 game consoles have both been huge hits with the latter’s run being extended in the past year with the record-breaking success of the Kinect accessory.

This is how Windows 8 will look: but will you see this on a Microsoft-brand tablet?

Which is why rumours that Microsoft may again be challenging Apple on its hardware-dominating turf might have to be taken with a grain of salt: DigiTimes overnight reported that supply chain sources have indicated Microsoft may be moving into the tablet game as early as next year with an in-house device made specifically for Windows 8 and developed in conjunction with Texas Instruments.  

Microsoft isn’t commenting on the report but its first-look demonstrations of Windows 8 last week indicate that tablets are very much part of Windows’ future. If the reports are true and Microsoft’s tablet vision encompasses hardware as well as software the company will be taking staunch aim at the third pillar of Apple’s “Post PC” offerings. Can it succeed this time around?