Will Microsoft Demo Windows 7 Slates at CES?

Microsoft has had an embarrassing fall, fending off accusations by competitors and critics that it has been talking big but still hasn't delivered on CEO Steve Ballmer's boast last summer that gaining a solid foothold in the evolving market for slate computers is Microsoft's "job one."

The company hopes that will start to change in early January when Ballmer is expected to show off a "slew" of new slate devices running Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows 7 during his opening keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, according to a blog entry in the New York Times Monday evening. CES is scheduled for January 6 through 9.

The blog, quoting unnamed sources "familiar with Microsoft's plans," said that Ballmer will showcase devices from Samsung and Dell, as well as from other device makers, during his speech.

It's perhaps a little ironic that Ballmer also showed an HP slate computer he said was running Windows 7 during last year's CEO keynote.

In fact, in late October, HP began selling the HP Slate 500, a Windows 7-based slate computer designed and priced for enterprises.

However, in order to provide the level and quality of technology that consumers expect, Microsoft has been waiting for Intel to ship its new Oak Trail processors, which are due early next year.

Meanwhile, nimbler competitors have stolen a march on Microsoft.

Also in October, researcher Gartner said that in 2010, end users will purchase 19.5 million "media tablets." By itself, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) sold 3.27 million iPads by June 26, the end of the company's fiscal third quarter -- the iPad just began selling in early April.

With as late in the year that the Slate 500 began shipping it doesn't appear to be able to have much impact by year end -- and so far, the iPad has not been a must have in the enterprise, although that could change if executives adopt it for tasks such as taking notes or reading newspapers and documents.

According to the blog post, the Samsung slate will have a slide out keyboard and run Windows 7 but will display a "layered interface" when the keyboard is stowed and the device held in portrait mode.

Ballmer may have a surprise for the CES audience, though.

"Another person with knowledge of Microsoft's plans said Steve Ballmer may demonstrate a tablet and other companion devices running the next operating system, Windows 8," the NYT blog post said.

A Microsoft spokesperson declined to comment for this story.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.


Microsoft, iPad, Apple, tablet, slate computers