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Rafiq Maqbool/AP

Microsoft to enter tablet race before Christmas

Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer says there’ll be tablets running Windows on sale by the end of 2010.

MICROSOFT has signalled its entry into the tablet PC market by saying it will have a tablet-friendly version of Windows available on slate machines before the end of the year.

Speaking at an audience in the London School of Economics yesterday, the company’s CEO Steve Ballmer (pictured) said that devices running the customised version of Microsoft’s operating system would be on the market by Christmas.

“People are demanding smarter devices that connect to that cloud in intelligent ways,” Ballmer said, according to the Telegraph. “I love where we are in the cloud. I feel we’re ahead of whoever the closest second rival is.

“We’ve done work on a Windows tablet, and you’ll see slates with Windows on from this Christmas,” he added. Certainly we have done work around the tablet as both a productivity device and a consumption device.”

It is possible that such handsets may be unveiled next week when the company holds a press conference about its Windows Phone 7 operating system for mobile smartphone handsets.

Though Microsoft was expected to make moves to enter the lucrative tablet market – estimated to be worth over €2.5bn by 2012 – it was not anticipated to be ready to enter the market quite so quickly.

BlackBerry manufacturer RIM last month announced its new tablet machine, the PlayBook, while Apple’s iPad sold 3.3m units in its first three months of sales.

Dell has announced it will produce its own ‘Streak’ tablet machine, built on a customised version of Google’s Android operating system which is also set for adoption on Google’s own ‘Google TV‘ product set for launch later this month.