Ballmer: Windows 7 Slates Coming Soon

In an effort to counter Apple’s iPad-fueled momentum in the personal computing market, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said his company plans to introduce a full range of Windows 7-based slate PCs “over the course of the next several months.”

And those devices, Ballmer said, will be designed with both consumers and enterprise users in mind.

Ballmer, who spoke Monday at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington, D.C., said the software maker is working with a number of manufacturers to bring tablets to market. “They will come from the people you would expect. From Asus, from Dell, from Samsung, from Toshiba, from Sony,” Ballmer said.

Ballmer noticeably failed to mention Hewlett-Packard in the list of vendors developing a Windows-powered slate product. HP was seen as a key Microsoft partner in the emerging category of tablet-style computers until it bought out Palm for $1.2 billion earlier this year. Many observers believe HP now plans to introduce a slate based on Palm’s WebOS.

One of Ballmer’s presentation slides, however, included HP in the list of vendors developing Microsoft-based slates. Other vendors listed on the graphic included Lenovo, Fujitsu, Onkyo, MotionComputing, Pegatron, Hanvon, and MSI.

Without mentioning his rival by name, Ballmer said Microsoft expects to take a significant piece of the slate market by delivering a wide variety of devices that fit in both home and business environments and will be compatible with Microsoft’s suite of management and security tools.

“We want to give you a consumer-oriented device, but a device that fits and is manageable with today’s enterprise IT solutions,” Ballmer said. “They’ll come with keyboards, they’ll come without keyboards, they’ll be dockable, there’ll be many form factors, many price points, many sizes. But they will run Windows 7,” he added.

With Apple having sold more than three million iPads in the device’s first 80 days on the market, Microsoft needs to move quickly to steal some momentum in one of tech’s hottest new markets. “This is a terribly important area for us,” Ballmer said.

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