Could Microsoft Beat Apple to Market with Tablet?

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer could drop some big news when he delivers the opening keynote at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) tonight in Las Vegas. According to a New York Times report, the software giant could unveil a tablet/slate PC tonight, weeks ahead of an expected announcement from Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL).

The slate will be made by HP (NYSE: HPQ) and possibly available by mid-year, according to the NYT report, which described the device as “a multimedia whiz with e-reader and multi-touch functions.”

Other possible topics for Ballmer tonight include: the Bing search engine; the Zune HD media player; the Windows Phone operating system; the company’s pending Natal motion capture game controller for the Xbox; and at least one new deal for Microsoft’s Windows Auto software.

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