The last-minute invitation from Microsoft (MSFT) ended with this tantalizing line: “This will be a major Microsoft announcement — you will not want to miss it.” So even though the invitation went out just four days before today’s Los Angeles media event, the software giant was besieged with inquiries from those who couldn’t wait four days. And if Microsoft wanted its employees to keep quiet, some of them apparently did not get the message.
First The Wrap reported that Microsoft was set to launch its own Windows 8 tablet. Then TechCrunch chimed in to say that the software giant actually plans to introduce a tablet in partnership with Barnes and Noble. Earlier this year Microsoft invested $300 million in a joint venture with Barnes and Noble, and at the time the companies were expected to focus on the bookseller’s Nook tablet. But Nook is an Android tablet, and of course Microsoft needs to invest in mobile devices that run its Windows operating system.
This morning, CNBC reported that its sources were saying Barnes and Noble is definitely NOT part of today’s event. The press conference is scheduled for 3:30 PT.
So far, Microsoft’s most successful foray into hardware has been the Xbox gaming system. The Xbox Live uses consumers’ existing Internet connections to stream content from home computers to TV screens. But as more and more gamers use tablets instead of consoles, Xbox sales have fallen. Microsoft says it sold 1.4 million consoles in the first quarter, about half of what it sold during first quarter of 2011. So it might make sense for the company to move its live streaming technology to a tablet.
Currently, several companies are making tablets that run Microsoft Windows, including Samsung, HP and Acer. Taking more control of this hardware would put Microsoft in direct competition with Apple, as well as with Google, which has entered the hardware space with its purchase of Motorola Mobility.