Windows 8 Inbound: Will a Third Platform Float?

On October 26, the tablet platform wars will be formally introduced to its third major player: Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Surface.

Word on the street is that the standard version of the device will have a 10.6-inch screen, a Tegra 3 processor from NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA), and 32 GB or 64 GB storage options. The device also boasts USB 2 and micro-HDMI ports, microSD, and will run the Windows 8 ARM version of the OS, called Windows RT. Office 2013 is also bound to be part of the package. So far, no one seems to know the price tag, but it’s expected to land at the high-end of the market.

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Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is the dominate player in the tablet market. The iPad mini is rumored for a November 2 release, which will bring the company’s high-end tablet game down to compete with the likes of Amazon’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) Kindle Fire line, Samsung’s Galaxy, and Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Nexus 7. However, research from Pew puts Apple’s tablet share at only 52 percent of the market in 2012, compared with 81 percent in 2011. Android-based devices have grown to take up significant pieces of the pie. Android claims 48 percent, according to the Pew data, with Kindle Fire representing 21 percent of that.

Many — possibly including Microsoft — are banking on Windows 8 to carry the company into the future. Microsoft has had a difficult time with mobile, took a blow with Vista, hasn’t made a significant dent in search, and the future of cloud computing is up in the air. With iOS and Android exchanging blows as the platform titans, Windows 8 will have to work some magic to become a legitimate third party.

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