At next month's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Microsoft will demonstrate a number of new Windows-run tablets and possibly even an early version of the next generation Windows 8 operating system, according to reports.
During his keynote on Wednesday January 5, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will unveil tablets, from Samsung and Dell and other vendors, that run on Windows, the New York Times reported, citing unnamed sources.
The newspaper also suggested that Ballmer's presentation will offer a glimpse of Windows 8 running on tablets.
The presentation will be one many industry observers are waiting for. Microsoft has fallen behind in the rapidly growing tablet market, where Apple dominates and Google's Android operating system is being harnessed by an increasing number of system builders. Research firm Gartner has estimated that 54.8 million tablets will be purchased in 2011.
During his 2010 keynote, Ballmer also promised that Windows-based tablets, otherwise called slates, would be released within the year, though none subsequently appeared.
Part of the blame for Microsoft's inability to penetrate this emerging market is being placed on Windows 7, which, critics note, contains too many small buttons and controls to work easily as a touch-based interface.
The next version of Windows now in development, Windows 8, will supposedly address the tablet market, though industry observers suggest that it may be too early in development to be ready even for a limited demonstration. Early unconfirmed reports indicate that Windows 8 may be ready for release by 2012.
The Times reports that the Samsung device will be approximately the same size as the Apple iPad, though it will be thicker and include a slide-out keyboard. This unit will run a version of Windows 7 that will have a layered touch-based interface that will appear when the keyboard is hidden.
Ballmer's Windows tablets will not be the first to be demonstrated. Last month, Acer unveiled a number of Windows 7 tablets that it plans to start selling in February.
Not everyone agrees with the Times' predictions, which have a set off much discussion on the Internet. "January seems a bit soon," to introduce a product as important to Microsoft as Windows 8, opined Lee Mathews, a contributor to the Switched technology news site.
Microsoft did not respond immediately for comment.