Apple, Google, RIM, and HP's Palm subsidiary all have tablet-ready operating systems either on the market now or coming soon. One name is missing from that list, however: Microsoft. While Windows 7 has appeared on a handful of business-oriented slates, BusinessWeek reports that a version of Windows properly tuned for tablets may not be out until 2012.
More specifically, BusinessWeek says its sources—"people with knowledge of the situation" who asked to remain anonymous—think Microsoft won't have a tablet-worthy competitor to iOS or Android "until the 2012 back-to- school season." That's an awfully long time to wait. Keeping mind that Apple's iPad seems to be on a yearly refresh schedule, that means Microsoft might not have a comeback until months after the iPad 3 hits stores.
The Android, RIM, and Palm camps will presumably have more advanced software and hardware by then, as well.
Now, whatever Microsoft ends up sticking in 2012 tablets could turn out to be a belated home run. The company has, after all, revealed a bold plan to support both x86 and ARM processor architectures with the next version of Windows. My pessimistic side is bracing for something more along the lines of Windows Phone 7, though: a catch-up product lacking many of the bells and whistles offered by the competition. Last time I checked, Windows Phone 7 still didn't support proper multitasking or copy-and-pasting.