In sharp contrast to the months and years of hype surrounding the rumored new Apple 'iSlate' tablet, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer abruptly announced his company's own touchscreen "slate" computer last night at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Ballmer says his tablet — built by Hewlett-Packard and powered by the Windows 7 operating system — will primarily function as an e-reader, but will also be "perfect for...surfing the web and taking entertainment on the go." Though, as yet, the Microsoft-HP tablet has no product name, release date or price, it's being widely viewed as a would-be response to Apple's already legendary (if unconfirmed) tablet product, expected to hit stores this spring. Does Microsoft's effort stand a chance?

The Microsoft tablet is shaping up to be a 'big disappointment': "Apple must be patting themselves on the back," says Daniel Lonescu in PC World. Microsoft's tablet, which "is basically a color e-reader running Amazon Kindle software," completely "failed to wow those expecting a true competitor to the mythical Apple tablet." After this "disappointing" presentation from Microsoft, Apple is poised to "surprise the world" with their tablet — unless, of course, "hype gets the better of them...."
"Why the Microsoft-HP tablet is a big disappointment"

Microsoft has lots of advantages: Don't underestimate Microsoft, says Steven Burke at CRN's Channel Web blog. First, the Microsoft-HP tablet will likely offer "robust...functionality" for far less than the rumored $1000 price tag of Apple's iSlate. Second, while Apple's "true genius lies in marketing its products as... status symbols," Microsoft spent $9 billion on research-and-development last year vs. Apple's $1.3 billion. Finally, the superior "multimedia experience" offered by Microsoft's Windows 7 and HP "will leave Apple pulling up the rear."
"3 reasons a Microsoft-HP tablet PC would trump Apple"

Apple owns this game: Whatever Microsoft's tablet brings to the table, Apple has "the kind of power" no other company wields, says Darrell Etherington in The Apple Blog. By simply "planting a seed about a potential upcoming product...they can change the direction of an entire industry" — and potentially "draw competitors into a money and time-wasting vortex." That's "probably not the case here, but scary, nonetheless."
"Microsoft to reveal tablet; Apple speculation now shapes the industry"