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Windows Slates coming at Christmas, unveiled on October 11

Microsoft is planning to unwrap its slate strategy next Monday at a press event in New York City, Neowin has learned.

According to sources familiar with the company's plans, Microsoft will hint at its future Slate plans at the event on October 11. The event's main focus is Windows Phone 7 but Neowin understands that Microsoft officials will speak briefly about the company's future Slate plans.

Microsoft has been criticized for its slow response to Apple's iPad device, introduced in April earlier this year. Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, previously said Windows 7 based Slates would be available "as soon as they're ready" when questioned earlier this year. Neowin understands that Microsoft officials are very keen on having an answer to Apple's iPad as soon as possible. The iPad sold three million units in its first 80 days of release and is currently selling approximately 4.5 million units per quarter, Bernstein Research estimates.

Microsoft Chairman, Bill Gates, said earlier this year that the company has a lot of different tablet projects it is pursuing. Microsoft canceled their internal Courier project shortly after the release of the iPad earlier this year. The project was an innovative new tablet concept that had promised to combine a dual screen book design with finger and stylus input. The leaked promotional materials demonstrated various concepts that would have brought an unparalleled productivity tool to the market. Most media outlets and analysts felt the move to cancel the device was a mistake.

Microsoft has been working closely with several un-named OEMs to produce a genuine answer to the iPad. The software giant is concerned that iPad sales are slowly cannibalizing Windows sales and eating away at the recent boom in netbook sales. Microsoft shares dropped 2% during US trading on Monday after Goldman Sachs cut its rating of the tech giant. The investment bank cut its rating from "buy" to "neutral" over fears Microsoft's Windows sales were being threatened by tablet computers such as the iPad. On October 11, Microsoft officials will hint at its Slate offering. Speaking at the London School of Economics on Tuesday, Ballmer promised that Microsoft will cover all form factors. "You'll see slates, but if you want most of the benefits of what a PC can offer, creating, a form factor that has been tuned over years, you'll see us expand the footprint of what Windows can target" he said. Ballmer also promised Windows based Slates this Christmas. “We’ve done work on a Windows tablet, and you’ll see slates with Windows on from this Christmas.”

HP has been working on a consumer version of the HP Slate that runs on Windows 7. The device also runs a custom interface on top of Windows 7 that is similar to the TouchSmart interface that ships with HP touch desktops. The HP Slate was originally unveiled at CES earlier this year by Steve Ballmer. The project has suffered its fair share of set backs, including rumours that it had been shelved. In April this year, HP acquired Palm, which threw the future of the Slate into doubt given HP now owns palms former operating system, webOS, which many thought may have instead been chosen to run on the device. HP executives have refused to confirm if the Slate is still on the table.

A recent YouTube video emerged which clearly demonstrated that Windows 7, by itself, was not ready for slate devices. Whether Microsoft is planning to change Windows 7 or offer a Slate version of Windows remains to be seen but we'll certainly know more next Monday. Stay tuned.

Update: Ballmer spoke at the UK Tech Days conference later on Tuesday and revealed that Microsoft will be introducing some touch optimizations for Windows 7 with partners in the coming year. "We're not going to do a major revamp of Windows 7 for slate applications, that will come in the next version (Windows 8)" said Ballmer.

Update 2: Microsoft has reached out to us to clarify our report. The software giant has no plans to introduce a physical device on October 11. Microsoft officials did not comment on whether they will mention their Slate plans however.

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