CES: Might Microsoft talk Surface tablets?

Summary:As the guesses and rumors about Microsoft's planned Consumer Electronics Show (CES) announcements continue to multiply, I've decided to throw another into the mix. I'm wondering whether CEO Steve Ballmer and Co. might announce a strategy and/or roadmap for tablet-sized Surface devices this week.

CES 2011

As the guesses and rumors about Microsoft's planned Consumer Electronics Show (CES) announcements continue to multiply, I've decided to throw another into the mix. I'm wondering whether CEO Steve Ballmer and Co. might announce a strategy and/or roadmap for tablet-sized Surface devices this week.

This is purely a guess on my part. It isn't based on a rumor or tip. But here's what's got me wondering:

  • In 2008, Microsoft execs said that a PC-sized version of the Surface multi-touch table could feasibly debut by 2011.
  • Microsoft is known to have been testing the market interest in a smaller Surface. Microsoft execs have investigated a variety of possible form factors that such a device (codenamed Oahu) might encompass
  • Microsoft researchers have been working on a project, known as Manual Deskerity, that is focused on bringing some of the tools and technologies demonstrated in those Courier tablet prototype videos, to the Surface

But the biggest reason I started mulling a Surface announcement -- or even just a "this is coming some day" demo -- at CES is because of a change in a Microsoft executive's bio I discovered this past weekend.

Michael Angiulo is the Corporate Vice President of Planning, Hardware and PC Ecosystem team at Microsoft. Prior to December 30, his corporate bio said he was overseeing planning for Windows, Windows Live and Internet Explorer. On December 30, his bio was updated with this line: "In addition, he is responsible for Surface Computing, PC Hardware, and a variety of partner engagement programs such as WinHEC, the Logo programs for hardware and systems, and direct engineering engagements with OEMs, IHVs and ISVs."

The Surface teams was one of those left in limbo after former Entertainment & Devices chief Robbie Bach's departure from Microsoft last year. When I asked where Microsoft planned to move the Surface team, I was told it was TBD (to be determined). It seems the Surface unit has landed...

A number of Microsoft watchers have reported that Microsoft is going to announce a new version of Windows that can run on ARM chips at CES and focus on this platform as the company's slate offering. (Microsoft execs have told me on more than one occasion that there will be no new version of Windows before Windows 8, so unless the Softies are ready to talk Windows 8, I'm curious what this means.)

As I've blogged previously, I'm more inclined to think Microsoft is going to talk about Windows Embedded as its slate offering at this week's show. (I'm starting to think it might be Windows Embedded Standard 7, rather than Windows Embedded Compact 7, given Microsoft officials have said Embedded Standard is well-suited for thin clients and networked media devices...)

But back to the Surface. I'm skeptical that the recent updating of Angiulo's bio was coincidental. I'd expect he'll play a role in Ballmer's CES address.  The question is whether the Surface also will play a role when Ballmer keynotes on January 5....

As I've said, this is all unsourced speculation on my part. What do you think?

Topics: Laptops, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Software, Tablets, Windows

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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