An interview with Paul Amsellem, new boss at Nokia France, includes this remark:
Et en juin 2012, nous aurons une tablette fonctionnant sous Windows 8
which even my schoolboy French can translate:
and in June 2012 we will have a tablet running Windows 8
Now, that is sooner than I had expected based on what we saw at the BUILD conference in September, and on past experience of Windows beta cycles. Windows 7, for example, was previewed in October 2008 and went into public beta in January 2009. A release candidate arrived in May 2009, and the gold release (the first production release) was towards the end of July 2009.
Although that does not sound much different from September 2011 to June 2012, bear in mind that the gold release is the moment when PC manufacturers can test their hardware with the production code. They still have to manufacture, package and distribute the machines, which is why the first machines with Windows 7 pre-installed did not arrive until October 2009. Hence the “general availability” date for Windows 7 of October 22 – three months after the gold release.
In order to achieve a June release for Windows 8 then, you would expect Microsoft to be done by March 2011. We have yet to see the first beta (the BUILD version is a preview) and a gold release for the x86 Windows 8 in March seems to me most unlikely. Of course it could be done, but only by compromising quality. The quality of the Windows 7 first release was excellent, and Microsoft is smart enough not to jeopardise its Windows 8 launch with a sub-standard product.
Is the Nokia man then either mis-informed or mis-quoted? Either is possible; but I also wonder whether Windows 8 on ARM will play by different rules. Microsoft said little about the ARM release at BUILD, though it was on show in the exhibition.
My impression is that the ARM release will be locked-down and that the only way to install apps will be via the app store. It will also be designed for specific hardware, unlike Windows x86 where people may grab an install CD and set it up on any old PC they can find; it is not guaranteed to work, but often it does.
That means Microsoft has much less to do in terms of compatibility testing, both for hardware and applications.
It follows that, despite being a new platform for Windows, the ARM release might actually be quicker to build than the x86 release. I can just about believe that Microsoft could be ready to hand over a gold build to Nokia in March 2012.
If that is the case, then the big risk is that apps will be scarce. It would give developers little time to create apps for the new platform, and it would also be interesting to see if the Office team at Microsoft could deliver something of real value by then.
Microsoft is under intense pressure from Apple’s iPad as well as Android competitors in tablets. Although it will want to get to market quickly, the company must also realise than a botched first release makes recovery hard. This will be interesting to watch.