Windows tablet: Is Microsoft readying an iPad killer?

Windows tablets could be among the devices unveiled by Microsoft at next month's Consumer Electronics Show.

Windows tablets could be unveiled by Microsoft next month at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Windows tablets – a “slew of them” – will be unveiled by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show, according to an article today in the New York Times. Citing “people familiar with Microsoft’s plans,” the Times reports that several manufacturers have signed up to build Windows tablets, including Dell and Samsung.

Details are scare, although a source tells the Times that the Samsung device would be “similar in size and shape to the Apple iPad,” and include “a unique and slick keyboard that slides out from below for easy typing.” The tablet would “run the Windows 7 operating system when in landscape mode, but will also have a layered interface that will appear when the keyboard is hidden and the device is held in a portrait mode.”

In related – and equally intriguing – news, the Times says that Microsoft could use the new tablets to demo a version of Windows 8. For Microsoft, the stakes are high. Tablets have flooded store shelves in recent months, and Gartner has predicated that 54.8 million tablets will be purchased in 2011. The market is currently dominated by the Apple iPad, but Android-powered tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab have made impressive debuts.

Thus far, Microsoft has lagged behind Apple. A solid Windows tablet could do a lot to change that. Then again, Microsoft’s track record with mobile devices in recent years hasn’t exactly been stellar. Windows Phone 7 – the new mobile operating system from Microsoft – earned solid marks from reviewers, with one critic praising the “tight, cohesive” interface and the “most nuanced touch response this side of iOS4.”

Still, Microsoft has refused to dish on exact sales numbers for Windows Phone 7 devices – and as Greg Kumparak of MobileCrunch recently noted, that’s never a good sign.

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