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We still don't know exactly when Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) will release Windows 8 on retail shelves. Rumor has it that the desktop version will hit the streets on October 26, with the smartphone and tablet platform going public three days later. But that's just a dubious leak at this point.
That hasn't stopped Microsoft's hardware partners from announcing products based on the new software.
Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) pins its Windows 8 hopes on three ultra-slim notebook systems. All three Ultrabook models come with touchscreens, in keeping with Mr. Softy's focus on optimizing the new Windows for touch-based operation. One even features a detachable keyboard, and could be seen as more of a tablet than a laptop. To help the Envy series stand out from the crowd of Windows 8 systems, HP also includes high-end Beats Audio components in these systems.
But these aren't launch-day partner systems for Microsoft. Two of the HP models will reach stores "for the holidays," and the third misses Black Friday with a December launch date.
Dell (Nasdaq: DELL ) also stepped up to the podium at this week's international electronics show in Berlin to announce three new Windows 8 systems. There's a 10-inch Windows tablet built around an ARM chip, an all-in-one system, whose defining feature is an ultra-high-definition screen, and a laptop-tablet hybrid with Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) inside. That's the general pattern for this week's announcements: Pure tablets will generally run on ARM, while keyboard-tethered hybrids reach for Intel processors, instead.
Unlike HP, Dell is aiming to have these systems for sale "when Windows 8 is available at the end of October."
The just-announced ATIV line includes both tablets and smartphones, just like Samsung's Android-based Galaxy brand. I'd expect a slew of laptops later on, but Sammy hasn't unveiled any of those, yet.
These are seriously high-end devices, but the company said nothing about launch dates or pricing. These products could prove very timely, as Samsung's Android gadgets are in danger of getting slapped with import bans. I'd expect them to launch on the soonish side, given Samsung's legal challenges. This makes the ATIV gadgets a good litmus test for Microsoft's mobile ambitions -- if the world's leading smartphone wrangler can't sell this platform with some serious marketing motivation at its back, then nobody will.
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