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Windows 8 is looking forward to Christmas

If it wants to make a quick push into public consciousness, cheap Windows 8 mobiles need to be ready for the holidays

A Bloomberg report built around anonymous sources offers a few details about the Windows 8 launch:

Timeline: An April Microsoft event to fill in partners on its launch plans, complete work this summer, launch in October, stock stores for Christmas sales

Available at launch: Three ARM tablets, more than 40 X86 devices.

Most of these have been speculated and confirming them with a story attributed to unnamed sources doesn’t do much to advance their credibility, but they do make sense.

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As to the timeline, partners need to know well in advance when new products will be available. In the case of hardware makers, they need to know when the operating system will be launched so they can plan to have devices ready to support it. Sales partners need to know what will be available and when.

Hitting Christmas makes a lot of sense. Last year the unexpected popularity of Nooks and Kindles drove tablet sales through the roof and Microsoft wants to capture what it can of a repeat of that performance. It really can’t afford to let the new iPad, which will have nine months to establish itself, go unchallenged during that big spending period.

Only three ARM tablets will be ready at launch, which is a bit surprising given the competition with iPads. Window on ARM focuses on low-power tablets for the touch-centric operating system. More would seem better, but two explanations come to mine.

First, Microsoft may be riding herd on this to make sure the hardware meets expectations. The company doesn’t want to launch its iPad killer and have it blow up in its face. An iPad is a known commodity and Windows 8 tablet will be unknown, so they better work an sell at a good price.

Second, limiting the number of devices will make them simpler for customers to wrap their brains around and create an exclusivity that makes WOA tablets into rare, exotic attractions.

Windows 8 tablets could enjoy great popularity, according to a Forrester study http://www.networkworld.com/news/2012/030612-tablets-forrester-256982.html released earlier this month. It found that 10% of adults surveyed plan to buy Windows 8 tablets, and that was before anyone had even seen the preview versions of Windows 8.

Combine this info with another rumor – that plans are underway for Windows 8-based ereaders – and a strategy for high volume initial sales starts to emerge. If Windows 8 ereaders do as well as Nooks and Kindles did last year, that will get the new operating system and its distinctive Metro –style user interface in the hands of millions quickly, which will only serve to build familiarity with a look that will be common among phones, tablets, laptops, slates, ultrabooks, TVs – you name it. Once that familiarity and sense of ubiquity develop, Windows 8 will have a much easier time attracting customers.

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