Ballmer: Windows 7 slates coming "as soon as they're ready".

We’re all very interested in learning more about Microsoft’s plan to respond to Apple’s iPad, and during a speech given at Microsoft’s Financial Analysts Meeting, CEO Steve Ballmer shared some more on Microsoft’s strategies for slate computing. Crushing the dreams of some, Ballmer revealed that there isn’t currently a slate-version of Windows Phone 7 in the works. Instead Microsoft will focus on bringing more Windows 7-powered slates to the market, working with partners to create slates with longer battery life (mentioning Intel’s OakTrail processor) and a more ‘tuned’ software experience.

Ballmer also talked about Apple’s iPad, a device that has “sold certainly more than [he’d] like them to sell”. He claims that contrary to Apple’s one-size-fits-all approach, Microsoft’s approach will give users choice of hardware – such as size, shape, color, along with the choice of convertible or slate models. He also praised the work that the Windows team has done on touch-technologies such as ink (handwriting recognition), which means that styli are still a part of Microsoft’s vision for touch computing.

Many questions remain unanswered though – such as will there be minimum requirements imposed on manufacturers or will there be any kind of slate/tablet app store? And perhaps the question on everyone’s lips – will Windows Phone 7’s Metro UI evolve into a tablet OS?

Many believed that with HP closing the doors on its slate project, and the mythical Courier project being officially shut down, Microsoft was out of the game. Ballmer certainly doesn’t agree with that theory. Expect to see new Windows 7 slate devices in a store near you “as soon as they’re ready”, or as Ballmer stated a month ago, this holiday season.

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