The unveiling might be seen as a disappointment to any who hoped to see the concept Microsoft Courier, a dual-touchscreen device that folds up like a book. Instead, Ballmer showed three versions of what Microsoft now refers to as slate PCs. The HP prototype is said to be arriving later this year.
Ballmer demonstrated the device running the Amazon Kindle desktop application with the hit book "Twilight" by Stephanie Meyer. The cover of the book ironically shows a pair of hands cradling an apple.
The HP slate has a multi-touch screen and is said to have instant-on capabilities. Additional slates were shown from Archos and Pegatron. Prices and additional details were not provided.
Microsoft and HP's slate PC announcement was largely seen as a preemptive strike against Apple, which is expected to announce its own touchscreen tablet later this month. Microsoft's choice of the word "slate" could even be viewed as a snub at Apple, which owns the trademark for the name iSlate.
First leaked as a concept last September, the Microsoft Courier was said to be a project under the eye of J Allard, Microsoft's chief experience officer. The Microsoft prototype reportedly included Wi-Fi, an iPhone-like home button, a camera on its reverse side, and an inductive charging pad like the Touchstone for the Palm Pre.
Concept pictures and video of the Courier showed two 7-inch screens held together by a hinge. The multi-touch screens were designed for writing, and could be controlled with either a stylus or fingers.
But the device — which has never been officially acknowledged by Microsoft — was not mentioned during Ballmer's CES keynote.
The touchscreen HP device that was shown was just one of many new products and services revealed by Ballmer. The Microsoft executive also noted that Windows 7 is the fastest selling operating system in history, with PC sales increasing 50 percent the week it launched. Months earlier, Apple also launched its latest operating system, Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, which doubled the record-setting sales pace of its predecessor, Leopard.
Ballmer's keynote, in its entirety, is can be viewed at Microsoft's CES Web site.