Microsoft has dabbled in tablets longer than any other company. Indeed, Windows XP Tablet Edition was around in 2005, long before the iPad. But Windows 8 is the company's most concerted effort yet into the world of tablet computing as all versions of the new operating system will have the Metro interface which is designed primarily for touchscreens. (See also: Microsoft Surface review.)
Tablets running Windows 8 are coming soon, but are unlikely to go on sale in the UK until 2013 or possibly in time for Christmas 2012. Although some Intel-based tablets have been shown running the new OS, chances are that most manufacturers will choose ARM processors, similar to those used in the iPad and Android tablets. These are more power-efficient and allow longer battery life.
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Microsoft has hinted that the Classic desktop will still exist in Windows 8 for ARM, but you won’t be able to use it to install software, since software written for Windows 7 or previous versions won't run on ARM processors. As you'd expect, Metro Apps will run in both versions of Windows 8 and, as with iOS and Android, Windows 8 has an app store where you'll be able to buy more apps.
Since Microsoft produces software for games consoles, PCs, smartphones and tablets, there’s great potential for Windows 8 to unify these devices and offer online services, such as Xbox Live, which are accessible from all devices. In fact, the Metro interface is already used by the latest Windows Phone handsets and the Xbox 360.
It's too early to say whether Windows 8 tablets will be a better choice than the iPad or best Android tablets. The interface certainly looks good, but content is king and it will need to persuade developers to create Metro-style apps as well as iOS and Android versions.