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Does Microsoft have an iPad-killing tablet in the works?

December 14, 2010 |  4:59 pm

Microsofttablet2001

"Tablet PCs will greatly extend the capabilities of today's laptop computers, allowing users to interact with their computer in exciting new ways and significantly increase the value of the PC in the workplace," Bill Gates said to a lukewarm audience. That was in November 2001, at Comdex, a tech industry trade show. In 2001 -- after an initial tease in 2000 -- Gates showed off a tablet prototype and promised that several manufacturers would produce the devices, designed to run on Windows XP, Microsoft's operating system.

Those tablets, and their subsequent generations, never captured consumers' attention. But this year, the iPad -- which rapidly sold in the millions after its introduction -- changed the tablet landscape. And according to reports, Microsoft is paying attention. The New York Times writes:

Next month, at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show  in Las Vegas, Microsoft will give it another try, presenting a slew of new slates that it hopes will offer some competition to the Apple iPad, which has quickly become the leader in this market....

Microsoft hopes these slates will offer an alternative to the iPad because they move beyond play, people familiar with the tablets said. “The company believes there is a huge market for business people who want to enjoy a slate for reading newspapers and magazines and then work on Microsoft Word, Excel or PowerPoint while doing work,” explained a person familiar with the company’s tablet plans.

PowerPoint notwithstanding, can you read a book on it? Today's New York Times report makes no mention of whether or not an e-reading application will come with the device, or whether it might have a branded ebook storefront such as Apple's iBookstore or the Kindle store at Amazon.

For its part, Microsoft isn't elaborating -- the company isn't even confirming or denying. It told the L.A. Times, "Unfortunately, Microsoft has nothing to share at this time."

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Charlton Lui, a Microsoft development manager, demonstrating a tablet PC prototype in November 2001. Credit: Anthony P. Bolante/ Microsoft / Associated Press

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