iPad 2 unveiled today, Windows 8 tablet possible for June

The Apple Insider has reported that analyst Brian White with Ticonderoga Securities has described Apple’s iPad 2 event, to be held today, as a “crucial product launch.”

But even as this developed, reports indicate that Microsoft’s Windows 8 tablets are definitely on the way, but a taste of the finished product could be coming sooner than you think. An unnamed source at Microsoft told Business Insider that the company plans to show off its design for Windows 8 tablets by the end of its fiscal year in June.

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“We estimate there are well over one hundred tablets coming to market around the world this year,” the site reports White as having said in a note to investors. “Assuming a new iPad is unveiled at this event, we believe Apple must make a convincing case for why the iPad 2 is better than the plethora of competitors coming to market, while at the same time persuading iPad 1 buyers to upgrade to iPad 2.”

White also noted that the iPad and related products and services generated $4.61 billion in sales in the first quarter of Apple’s fiscal 2011, amounting to 17.2 per cent of the company’s revenue, with the site reporting White’s ‘conservative’ estimate of 27.36 million iPad sales in fiscal 2011, generating $16.92 billion.

“In fact, we estimate that iPad sales will contribute nearly one-third of Apple’s $36.8 billion in incremental revenue that we are modeling in (fiscal year 2011),” he wrote. “If we exclude iPad revenue from Apple’s (fiscal year 2010) results and our FY11 model, our revenue growth rate projection for Apple would be 41 per cent in FY11 versus our current projection of 56 per cent.

White also drew attention to the fact that this will be a key public test for Apple COO Tim Cook, who is expected to host the event. “In particular, [White] said, analysts will look to see how well Apple handles the debut of its second-generation iPad with Chief Executive Steve Jobs on a medical leave of absence.”

Meanwhile, an unnamed source said Microsoft will borrow from the “Metro” interface of Windows Phone 7 while also taking inspiration from Apple for its interface design.

Related story – Four ways Windows 7 tablet can beat the iPad

We’ve heard rumblings about theWindows Phone 7 aesthetic appearing in Windows 8 tablets before. In January, Paul Thurrott reported a rumor that Windows Phone 7’s live tiles could be part of a secondary interface for Microsoft’s next operating system.

That makes sense given that the tile aesthetic is starting to show up in other Microsoft products, including Bing and the Xbox 360.

As for the timing, I’m a little more skeptical. Slashgear has reported a rumor that a developers’ beta won’t be ready until September. ZDNet’s Mary-Jo Foley reported that Windows 8’s next big milestone is on track for the end of July, which, judging by Microsoft’s timeline for Windows 7, would lead to a public preview a few months later.

Here’s what we know for sure: Microsoft is building Windows 8 to work with ARM chips, allowing the company to “bring to market the widest possible set of PCs and devices, from tablets on up,” according to Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft’s Windows division. There’s no question that Windows 8 will accommodate tablets.

But right now, the tablet field is becoming crowded with Google’s Android, HP’s WebOS, Research in Motion’s Blackberry PlayBook and of course Apple’s iPad. The idea that Microsoft wants to play show-and-tell before the fall seems plausible.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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