A Microsoft slate to counter Apple's popular iPad tablet computer will be seen by the Christmas holiday, Microsoft's Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said on Tuesday. Ballmer did not say whether the palm-sized slates would actually be on sale in time for Christmas, nor did he say who would make them. Microsoft has been slow to respond to the iPad, and has also made little headway in mobile phones. “You'll see new slates with Windows on them. You'll see them this Christmas,” he told an audience of students, staff and journalists at the London School of Economics. “Certainly we have done work around the tablet as both a productivity device and a consumption device,” he said.

IT research firm Gartner expects 10 million tablet PCs to be sold this year as consumers begin embracing such devices, which include Dell's Streak and Asustek's Eee Pad. The Apple iPad alone sold 3.3 million in its first quarter. At this year's Consumer Electronics show in January, Ballmer unveiled a Hewlett-Packard tablet computer running Windows, beating Apple's hotly anticipated move into the market. But little has been heard about the device since HP agreed to buy smartphone maker Palm in April for $1.2 billion, and HP has said it plans a new crop of devices including tablets based on Palm software, although it will still offer Windows tablets.

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