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This is consistent with leaked roadmap from Dell which indicated the same thing, and is likely what Microsoft is telling their partners.
Windows8beta reports on a comment from Michael Gartenberg, an analyst for research firm Gartner, who said“If 2011 is the year of the tablet wars, Microsoft will be awfully late suiting up for that battle. It’s not a good position to be in. [….] Battle lines are being drawn, land is being grabbed, users are being evangelized and spending money” , so Microsoft has to rely on HP Slate and Asus Eee Slate which runs on Windows 7 until Windows 8 for tablets is released.
On the other hand Microsoft has a history of coming from behind by winning by providing increased functionality and compatibility, with recent examples being the netbook arena. Whether Microsoft can leverage this strategy into a win on this occasion remains to be seen.
Thanks Vipul for the tip.