Microsoft is reportedly asking chip makers Intel, Advanced Micro Devices, Nvidia, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments to pair up with just one computer manufacturer to make tablet devices running the Windows 8 operating system.
Restricting each chip maker to a single tablet computer manufacturer would limit the number of variations of the Windows operating system Microsoft would have to develop, test and support, accelerating how quickly it can get into a market in which it's badly lagging rivals Apple and Google.
Microsoft will reportedly offer incentives to chipmakers and device manufacturers who agree to the restrictions, according to a Bloomberg news service story.
Microsoft has been absent from the fast-growing tablet computer market that's dominated by Apple's iPad and devices from Samsung, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and others that run Google's Android mobile operating system. Just how Microsoft plans to approach the tablet market has been the subject of much speculation -- and some leaks -- in recent weeks.
Last month an Intel executive said Microsoft is developing multiple versions of its next-generation Windows 8 operating system to run on ARM systems-on-a-chip processors from Nvidia, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments. Microsoft called those statements "factually inaccurate and unfortunately misleading," without really saying how.
Last week, in a speech in Tokyo, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer made a reference to "Windows 8," even though Microsoft hasn't officially announced the name of the next release of the desktop operating system. He also said that "as we look forward to the next generation of Windows systems, which will come out next year, there's a whole lot more coming. As we progress through the year, you ought to expect to hear a lot about Windows 8. Windows 8 slates, tablets, PCs, a variety of different form factors."
Microsoft later retracted Ballmer's comments, calling them a misstatement.
Microsoft's approach to the tablet market would be less restrictive than Apple's closed system, but not as open as Google's strategy of making Android available to any manufacturer, according to a Wall Street Journal story. The article said it was unclear which chip makers had been paired with which hardware manufacturers.
The Bloomberg story said the chip companies would also be allowed to sell their microprocessors to a manufacturer for use in a clamshell-type notebook computer.
Microsoft itself, which isn't commenting on today's reports, may provide more answers itself on Thursday. Speaking at the Computex trade show in Taipei, Taiwan Wednesday, Steven Guggenheimer, corporate vice president of Microsoft's original equipment manufacturer division, said Microsoft would preview the next generation of Windows to customers and the media at the show on Thursday, according to the Bloomberg story.