Will Microsoft set the world ablaze today with an iPad-killer?
Will Microsoft set the world ablaze today with an iPad-killer?

With summer here, major tech news has slowed somewhat (Samsung Galaxy S III launch aside), but Microsoft plans to change that today with a much-hyped — and to this point secretive — launch. Could it be the Windows 8 tablet we’ve been hearing so much about? Or maybe a peak into the nextgen Xbox 360?

A quick aside: Facebook (FB) stock is up again today. Could the maligned be IPO mark a second consecutive net-positive week on the Nasdaq?

Here are some of the top headlines in tech.

Not good enough: iOS 6

Google Maps. Apple is ditching Google in a bid to integrate its own mapping technology that could leap Android with the release of iOS 6 this fall.

iOS 6 is not even here yet (Apple CEO Tim Cook announced it would be released in the fall — likely alongside the iPhone 5), and the masses are not happy.

One thing you can always count on with Apple prognosticators and pundits is espresso-induced rage at the inadequacy of yet unreleased products. The latest critique comes from much-loved tech site Hot Hardware (there in-depth, and spec driven hardware tests are the best in town). Admittedly they do cover the good stuff (a “more mature” Siri, passbook, Facebook integration, among others) before leaning in to Apple for missing the mark. What’s missing? Options for more keyboard styles/layouts, a deeper Siri knowledge base, offline mapping (Android fans also are eagerly awaiting this feature), an “intelligent” lock screen, and a data usage meter (particularly important given the new shared, data capped plans the carriers are rolling out).

The conclusion: “Whereas just a couple of years ago iOS represented the pinnacle of mobile OSes, it now trails in spots and is still playing catch-up in a number of key areas.” Say it ain’t so! Read the whole report here.

Differentiate: Sharp develops custom Android skin

Feel UX: Just like Motorola (MotoBlur), Samsung (TouchWiz) and HTC (Sense), Sharp plans to launch its own custom Android skin in an effort to differentiate its products.

You know an iPhone when you see it. But what about a generic Android slab? Many suggest that one of the biggest challenges facing Google’s smartphone partners is figuring out how to stand out from the pack. Sharp reportedly plans to develop its own skin, dubbed “Feel UX,” in an effort to differentiate its Android products. They join others, such as Motorola (MotoBlur), Samsung (TouchWiz), and HTC (Sense), who have all created custom user interfaces that sit on top of the stock Android operating system.

The oddest part of this story is the fact that Sharp apparently makes Android products. You learn something new every day!

(note: yes, we know, only in Japan…)

Win 8 tablet?

Microsoft has talked a big tablet game for several years. Now it’s time to deliver.

The biggest story today comes from Microsoft. Maybe. Expectations are high that today’s press conference in Los Angeles will set the world ablaze with some sort of iPad-killing Windows 8-based tablet. Hopefully MSFT, having perhaps analyzed its competition this time, will do the right thing and keep it priced under $1,500. Given the LA setting, expect a celeb or two, and plenty of loud, conferenc-y rock ‘n roll. The Barnes & Noble rumor appears to be false, though anything is possible.

With Google struggling in the tablet market (i.e. the iPad market), the door is wide open for Microsoft to take a shot at becoming a solid number two. The secret weapon may very well be its Xbox Live service.

Leak free. Regardless of what happens at announcement we’ll say this: good on you Microsoft for keeping this one secret.