The tablet arms race is getting ready to accelerate in the second half of the year. Now, the newest rumor to hit the market is that Samsung (F)">SSNLF.PK) will release a Windows RT based tablet at the start of the fourth quarter of 2012.
So far this year, Google (GOOG) has announced its own Android OS tablet, the Nexus 7, and Microsoft (MSFT) has unveiled its own Windows-based tablet, the Surface. Additionally, it is now anticipated that Apple (AAPL) will release a smaller iPad around the start of the fourth quarter. Similarly, it is largely anticipated that Amazon.com (AMZN) will also release an upgraded version of its Android-based Fire tablet. Therefore, any further tablets will be entering an increasingly competitive market.
Apple presently leads the U.S. tablet market with approximately 58 percent of the market. Samsung was second, with about 11 percent, followed by Amazon.com, with nearly six percent. Samsung now sits in a very enviable position. The company is not only competing with Apple and other hardware retailers in the smartphone and tablet markets, but also a major component supplier to its competitors, including Apple.
Samsung also makes Android OS based smartphones and tablets, so such a move would mean that the large device maker does not want to limit itself to any particular operating system. Samsung is also a reasonably large maker of Windows-based computers and may see a greater likelihood of business integration of a Windows tablet. Samsung's Windows RT tablet would also be the first Windows based product to hit the market that is based on ARM Holdings (ARMH) chip-set technology.
Not all computer manufacturers are keen on utilizing Windows RT, and for a variety of reasons. Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), which is still the world's largest computer maker, indicated it would not back Windows RT from the start. Nonetheless, Hewlett-Packard does plan to release a tablet based upon Windows 8.
Some of HPQ's disinterest could be based upon Microsoft's directly competing within the hardware space by offering the Surface, but the company is also likely interested in pushing its own webOS as a tablet platform, including making it an open-source operating system. Thus far, HPQ has had generally poor luck entering the tablet market, including the TouchPad, which was discontinued less than two months after its retail release. Many speculate that HPQ will attempt a webOS-based phone or phone integrated tablet in late 2012 or 2013.
Most of the largest traditional makers of personal computers have sustained significant declines in their business due to the growth of the tablet market. Recent moves by both Microsoft and Google to release tablets based upon their own software may prompt other hardware makers realign themselves with an OS, or to simply offer products using both systems, like Samsung is apparently doing, and allowing the market to prove which it prefers.
Another potential issue is litigation risk. Apple and Google, as well as several device makers using Google's Android OS, have fought over patent infringement. Microsoft's patent portfolio may allow it to compete not only in the retail market, but also before courts regarding such intellectual property disputes. Last week, Samsung lost an emergency bid to resume selling the Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet computer, a U.S. appeals court decided.
While tablets have become increasingly popular, the devices are still primarily used for consumption of content and not for the creation of content. Coming Windows tablets should be more capable of creating content, and specifically interfacing with already existing networks and programs such as Excel and Word. These capabilities could make Windows tablets popular with businesses that are already using Windows-based computers, and which do not desire to completely replace their network.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.