Device operating systems

CES 2012: It's Time for That Third Ecosystem, Microsoft

5:00 AM -- LAS VEGAS -- 2012 International CES -- I, for one, am hoping that Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) really embraces CES this year -- its last with CEO Steve Ballmer headlining -- with a big Windows push. And I'm willing to bet I'm not the only one hoping for this.

The wireless operators want 2012 to be the year a third ecosystem outside of Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Android emerges, and Microsoft may just have best chance of forging it.

"Carriers won't publicly talk about this, but they're dying for a third ecosystem to emerge," says Chris Collins, director at Compete Inc. "Having an Apple/Android duopoly doesn't play to their best interest."

The fact that no other OS has made moves to suggest it would carry the mantle, coupled with the marketing dollars Microsoft plans to inject into Windows, leads Collins to believe it's the right OS for the job.

Much of this responsibility will fall to Microsoft's flagship partner and rumored acquisition target Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), which is expected to announce its first Windows-based, Long Term Evolution (LTE) smartphone for AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) at the show. (See AT&T Developers Summit: What to Expect, AT&T Champions Windows Phone and OS Watch: Nokia & Microsoft Headed to the Altar?)

But it's not the only device maker that will be showing off gadgets based on the OS. John Elliott, senior director of Accenture 's Mobility Services group, believes that Microsoft's latest OS version, Mango, is strong enough to be a real competitor in smartphones and expects to see more phones announced that sport the OS. On the tablet front, he's also positive about the prospects for Windows 8 and is anticipating lots of demos of Windows 8 slates, Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) and ARM-based tablets. (See CES 2012: The Ultra Tablet Show, Microsoft Tangos With Mango, Mango Is a Go and Nokia Tablet Due in June 2012? )

"Tablets running Windows 8 that have access to all Microsoft Office capabilities will fill a void in the market," he says, adding that the iPad is still primarily a consumer device and Android isn't conducive to PowerPoint presentations. "We could see some [Windows 8] slates that fill the gap and make it easier to just carry a phone and tablet."

CES is the perfect stage for Microsoft to prove it's got the kahunas to pull off being a solid number three. The wireless operators' presence at CES may be a little muted this year with the exception of AT&T's collocated developers' conference, but that isn't to say they won't be watching the show with interest. And Microsoft will be the one they're keeping a particular eye on.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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