At CES 2011, Microsoft is planning on showcasing new slates to compete against the iPad, according to The New York Times. That's hardly a big surprise, given that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer already did that at CES 2010.
In fact, Microsoft has been regularly promising that more slates and tablets in various form factors were coming in 2011. OEMs have already announced plans, or have watched their plans leak, regarding touch devices running Windows: Acer, Asus, Toshiba, among others (Samsung and Dell come to mind), are all on board. The article does, however, get interesting at the very end:
A person who works at Microsoft said the company was encouraging partners to build applications for these devices that use HTML5, the Web programming language. This person said the applications would not be sold in an app store, as with the Apple iTunes model, but Microsoft will encourage software partners to host the applications on their own Web sites, which will then be highlighted in a search interface on the slate computers. It is unclear if these applications will be ready for C.E.S. as most are still in production. Another person with knowledge of Microsoft's plans said Steve Ballmer might demonstrate a tablet and other companion devices running the next operating system, Windows 8.
There's a few things that are contradicting in this piece of information. While the App Store part is hard to deny, even with leaks regarding an app store for Windows, the Windows 8 part is definitely fishy. We would have definitely heard something sooner if Windows 8 was ready to be shown off in one form or another.
Less than two months ago, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was asked about the riskiest product bet that the software giant is currently developing, and he answered "the next release of Windows" without so much as a second of hesitation. There have been many leaks related to Windows 8 before and after this quote, but the fact remains that Windows 8 isn't slated to arrive until 2012.
We seriously doubt Ballmer would be able to strut on stage next month and show off Windows 8 running on a tablet. He could, however, show off some touch improvements for Windows 7 and emphasize that they're a glimpse of what's to come in Windows 8. Beyond something like that, don't hold your breath if you want to see Windows 8 next month.