Microsoft may announce on Monday that it's building its own tablet to rival Amazon's Kindle Fire (and Apple's iPad Mini).
In addition to working with tablet partners, the company wants to tackle Apple's iPad by taking a direct approach. Inside sources claim Microsoft concluded that it needs its own tablet, designed from scratch by the Redmond company. That means it will have control over all aspects of the device including hardware and additional software. The tablet may even be offered in both x86 and ARM-based varieties.
Now here's the kicker: Both AllThingsD and The Wrap have heard that Microsoft will manufacture the tablet itself rather than farm it out to tablet partners as Google has done with its Nexus-branded Android tablets. This is an interesting approach given that Microsoft makes most of its money selling Windows and Office while depending on PC makers like Dell, HP, Acer and Lenovo to provide the hardware platforms.
But Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet suspects the tablet may be more in line of a Kindle Fire rival than an iPad rival. This theory stems from hints made by Microsoft "brass" over the past year that the company expects to launch some kind of Metro-centric reader in the near future. That said, it makes more sense for Microsoft to handle a 7-inch tablet while leaving partners to develop the larger, more robust versions.
Of course, Apple is slated to release its own 7-inch iPad Mini later this year. We also have Google's army of Nexus tablets arriving soon, starting with the 7-inch model by Asus next week. Amazon is also gearing up to release its next Kindle Fire before the holidays in addition to revamped models of its Kindle eReader line. Microsoft probably doesn't plan on sitting this one out.
There's speculation that the tablet will be based on an ARM SoC (Tegra 3?) and sport Windows RT. Nokia might actually be the manufacturer of choice, and Barnes & Noble may serve as the primary eBook source. It would still be labeled as a Microsoft tablet just as the Xbox 360 is a Microsoft console even through the company technically doesn't manufacture the entertainment system.
Everything written here is mere speculation for now. Microsoft could very well make a Windows Phone 8 announcement on Monday instead, and/or a deal with Nokia to bring the prices down even lower. Guess we'll see in three days.