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Microsoft to show off true iPad competitors at CES?

The New York Times is reporting that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer may show off some new slates and tablets from various PC partners at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2011 in January.

The New York Times is reporting that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer may show off some new slates and tablets from various PC partners at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2011 in January.

Sounds like CES 2010 revisited, doesn't it? Last year, the centerpiece of Ballmer's keynote was an HP slate prototype (that ultimately emerged as a very different looking HP Slate 500 product aimed at business users).

Ballmer has said a lot about Windows slates this year, none of which seems to have impressed Wall Street or many consumers. He said slates are job number one at Microsoft and also said to expect the first "real" Windows-based iPad competitors to arrive some time in 2011, after Intel ships its Oak Trail processors. The Times says that new slates from Samsung and Dell may get some stage time. (Rumors of a Samsung Windows 7 slate were circulating in March of this year.)

The New York Times story throws one new tidbit into the mix, claiming that Ballmer might even show off a tablet running Windows 8 during his keynote.

As we know from a leaked slide deck from April 2010, Microsoft is making sure that Windows 8 will run well on slates.

But it's very early days for Windows 8, which is not expected by many to be released until 2013. Microsoft still has not yet finished its internal Milestone 2 (M2) build, according to my sources. (That is expected to be completed by January or February, I hear.) Then there will be an M3 build (with coding to begin in late February) , and -- some say -- a public beta by Fall 2011. (PDC 2011, maybe?) In short, Windows 8 is not yet approaching the finish line. Or even the beta starting line.

The Windows team has been striving to maintain as much secrecy as possible about Windows 8. So a showing as early as January 2011 would be uncharacteristic and surprising. But it also might silence some of the continued criticism of Microsoft's lack of a true answer to the iPad. So maybe the Windows team will be asked to break the mold... Still, I have to say if Microsoft does show off Windows 8 in January, I will be very surprised....