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Microsoft unveils new tablet PC

MICROSOFT chief executive Steve Ballmer unveiled a new Hewlett-Packard tablet computer yesterday, beating Apple’s hotly anticipated move into the market.

But analysts were sceptical that Microsoft and HP could generate as much consumer excitement as Apple’s new device, widely expected to be unveiled on 27 January, though the company has not said anything about it publicly.

Ballmer showed off the new device at the end of his keynote speech at the CES technology show in Las Vegas.

“This great little PC -- which will be available later this year -- I think many customers are going to be very excited about,” said Ballmer, using finger touches to flip through a book on the screen using Amazon.com’s Kindle software.

“Everyone's fired up about this type of device,” said Kim Caughey, senior analyst at fund manager Fort Pitt Capital Group. Microsoft has “a lot of the pieces in place” to make such a device work, she said, but it’s not clear that it can claim significant market share.

“How do you make them usable and at a price point people will pay, which I suggest is sub-$500?” asked Caughey.

Ballmer did not detail pricing or when the device will hit stores.