Which tablets will launch with Windows 8?

All signs continue to point to a planned October release of Windows 8. But what versions, on what hardware?

Dina Bass at Bloomberg posted an unattributed story, reiterating old news about the planned Windows 8 ship date but including a startling comment about the hardware that will be available at launch.

The old news: Microsoft "will finish work on Windows 8 this summer, setting the stage for personal computers and tablets with the operating system to go on sale around October." That's been the plan since CES 2012 in early January, when Janelle Poole, director of PR for the Windows Business Group, said, "Windows releases come round about every three years and this year will be three years in October since we launched Windows 7. So I think that's a good guideline to consider."

The new unattributed news: "There will be fewer than five ARM devices in the debut, compared with more than 40 Intel machines." Then Bass has an unnamed source saying, "[t]hree of the Windows 8 ARM devices will be tablets."

If Dina's source is correct, we'll see 40 x86 architecture Windows 8 machines, three ARM tablets, and one or two ARM devices that aren't tablets -- probably branded with some catchy new name.

The x86 machines will come from every hardware manufacturer under the sun. The basic approach, no doubt, will be to throw things against the wall and see what sticks.

The ARM tablets, though, can only come from a small gene pool. At the Build conference in September, Microsoft fleetingly demoed units purportedly made with ARM chips from Nvidia, Qualcomm, and TI. On the CES 2012 show floor, Nvidia had three demo machines, all behind glass; TI had one machine, which journalists weren't allowed to touch; and Qualcomm didn't have any ARM devices on show.

Nvidia issued a press release last month claiming it "is working with Microsoft on a program to distribute Windows 8 test PCs to software developers and device manufacturers powered by the Tegra3 quad-core mobile processor. ... This seeding program enables these parties to create a rich ecosystem of apps and devices for Windows 8 on ARM-based processors."

Similarly, Qualcomm reports that it's providing hardware for the Windows 8 on ARM test.

Texas Instruments doesn't appear to have a similar announcement.

What about the "other" ARM devices? One possibility: the Nvidia-based Asus Transformer Prime, which has a separate, detachable keyboard that doubles as a cover. Back before CES in January, Asus vice president Samson Hu held a press event in Taipei to announce that Asus would ship an ARM tablet before the end of the year. Perhaps the Transformer Prime -- or something like it -- will ship at the Windows 8 launch?

Many questions remain. Windows 8 prognosticators are now focused on the Windows 8 Developer event in Silicon Valley on April 4. "[T]he Microsoft team will provide attendees the opportunity to play with the platform and the tools needed to get started."

Kinda makes you wonder if "the platform" is Windows on ARM.

This story, "Which tablets will launch with Windows 8?" was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.