The software giant unveiled its Tablet PC, running a customised version of Windows XP, and showed off its Tablet PC Platform software development kit (SDK).
The Tablet PC "should be viewed as the next evolution of laptop systems", said Andrew Dixon, Microsoft's marketing manager for the device.
The SDK contains detailed design guidelines, including formulas for calculating optimal dimensional measurements of controls based on display resolution, said Microsoft officials. The kit also includes a full set of application programming interface references for C++ and C# developers. Developers can work in either Visual Studio 6.0 or Visual Studio.Net.
A hardware prototype complete with Transmeta chip, 6Gbyte hard drive, six-hour battery and wireless local area network support was unveiled at the conference.
The model will cost $2,000 (£1,381) and will available in the US during the latter half of next year. It will run a superset of Windows XP.
Users should expect versions based on Intel processors and with hard drive capacities greater than 60Mbytes, said Microsoft.