Microsoft previews new devices, promotes Windows in Taipei

Microsoft is battling with Google to get into consumer electronics gadgets

Walk around the halls of Computex, the massive regional trade show taking place in Taipei this week, and you'll quickly realize that Microsoft's business is under attack like never before. In portable and mobile electronics, companies are increasingly choosing Google's Android operating system rather than Windows.

So during a keynote speech in front of many of their biggest customers -- the Asian hardware makers responsible for making many of the world's consumer electronics products -- Microsoft executives sought to underline the importance of their feedback and to highlight some of the latest Windows-based devices.

"We feel confident about our ecosystem," said Tony Prophet, corporate vice president of Windows marketing. And with a dig at one of the problems faced by developers for the multiple versions of Google's Android OS, he continued, "We've got scale and a truly global footprint and we're not highly fragmented."

Several times, executives mentioned the company's move away from a business model based on delivery of a new operating system every few years to one based on more regular updates. Most recently, it delivered both Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1.

"Gone are the days of the three-year release cycle. We've taken your feedback and have moved to a system of regular updates," said Prophet. "It's open to your ideas, its open to your innovation and its open to the core value that for us to win, you've got to win."

Microsoft is also keen to compete on price.

Google has done well by offering the basic version of Android at no cost -- something that counts in an industry where profit margins are thin -- and in April Microsoft started offering Windows licenses at no cost for devices with screen sizes below 9 inches.

Microsoft's Nick Parker, who handles the company's partnerships with device makers, showed off a handful of new devices including a new laptop and tablet hybrid from HP.

The HP Pro X2 2-in-1 is designed for business users, he said, and includes Microsoft's Trusted Platform Module security chip and Intel's vPro security technologies. It will be available with Intel Core i5 or i7 processors in three different 4G networking versions, and comes with HD cameras and a stylus.

He also previewed a new 7-inch tablet from Japan's Toshiba but offered no details on its specifications or when it would launch. "I promised I wouldn't mention the price, but I will say this will be competitive with other 7-inch devices in the industry," said Parker.

Microsoft also said Cortana, the voice-controlled digital assistant on the Windows Phone platform, will be launched in the U.K. and China later this year. Cortana is Microsoft's answer to Apple's Siri and is currently only available in the U.S. The first international versions are localized for each market, the company said without offering more details.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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