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Ballmer reveals some 'slate' PCs, but does not thrill

There was quite a bit of anticipation that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer would upstage Apple with an exciting new tablet design at his CES keynote last night, but it pretty much turned out to be a dud. After more than an hour of bobbing and weaving through several topics, and quickly skipping over Windows Mobile, Ballmer showed a prototype tablet from Hewlett-Packard and two other suppliers. They were running Windows 7 and looked a lot like other touchscreen prototypes we've seen, but none of them seemed to do anything special. You can see the tablet presentation over on YouTube.

What we really saw was Ballmer trying a pre-emptive strike against the probable appearance of an Apple tablet later this month. He even referred to 'slate' PCs, a bit of a swipe against the oft-reported Apple-owned iSlate name. I suppose this is better than Ballmer's 2007 interview where he dissed the iPhone when it launched. He's trying to get ahead of the curve, but his keynote got pretty ho-hum reviews and Microsoft really didn't show anything of interest. There was a buzz that Microsoft might show the Courier device it hinted at in September, but it didn't appear yesterday.

We don't know if Apple will reveal a tablet, although it seems pretty likely. Do you think Apple can trump Microsoft with a tablet and dominate the market as they have with the iPhone against Windows Mobile phones? Or has Microsoft learned their lessons by trying to be a little more pre-emptive with a tablet release?

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