With all eyes on Apple waiting for its tablet launch later this month its rival Microsoft has beaten it coming to the market earlier with its Hewlett-Packard slate PC.
Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, used the gadget-fest Consumer Electronics Show (CES) which has kicked off in Las Vegas, as a venue to show off the new slate, a Windows 7 based touchscreen tablet.
Ballmer used his keynote to show off the slate and a couple of other tablets underlining some analyst predictions that this is going to be the year of the tablet.
The slate product shown off by the Microsoft CEO was running Kindle software and playing videos. Expectations are for a mid-year launch, which would lag behind the expected shipment dates for a potential Apple product.
Earlier this week Apple was tipped to launch its own tablet product towards the end of this month with units arriving in March.
Richard Holway, chairman at TechMarketView, has dubbed 2010 as "the year of the tablet" and he pointed to Ballmer's speech as more evidence that it was starting to happen.
But he pointed to the reaction from fellow analysts and tech bloggers as a sign that the Microsoft announcement had failed to make a big reaction, with most people continuing to wait for the Apple announcement expected on 26 January.