Ballmer to world: Microsoft slate PCs on the way this year -

Microsoft's Ballmer announced today during his keynote at the Worldwide Partner Conference that yes, there are going to be Windows 7 slates, and they'll be out before the year's through.

Microsoft and Ballmer's mates, such as Asus, Dell, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba, will all be having a look at Windows 7 powered tablet PCs very soon. He's planning to market them at different ends of the price spectrum, and flavours will include those that run with e-ink as well as keyboard focused tablets and touch-only.

It had been thought by some critics that Microsoft would be no threat to the likes of Apple and Android as Windows 7 is not touch-optimised and using a stylus is pretty old fashioned by today's fancy standards. It has been keeping customers in the dark about its foray into the world of tablet PCs but Ballmer has finally let loose.

Remember Courier? That got scrapped but it seems the Vole is still keen to break into the slate market. "Most every Ballmer *assertion/announcement* goes south after giving a leg up to the price of stock," said one reader.

Ballmer reckons that there's a big space for his kit within corporate IT - he says his slates will be sanctioned and will be okay to use whether at home or at work. Enterprise is something that Cisco recently started looking at so it seems there's demand. Ballmer had better be quick on the draw if he wants to make a dent in the Android and Apple share.