Will Ballmer's CES keynote feature Windows 8 tablets?

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took the keynote stage at CES this year to show off new tablets running Windows 7, but he's still waiting for people to buy them.

Ballmer will try again in January, as it was just announced that he will once again deliver the preshow keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Microsoft has previously used CES to unveil successful products such as the Xbox, but its attempt to get consumers excited about Windows 7 tablets didn't fly.

We now know that Microsoft is feverishly working on Windows 8, and that it has a redesigned interface optimized for tablet touchscreens. It's doubtful that any tablet will topple the sales of Apple's iPad, but Microsoft will give it a shot, and the CES keynote is a likely stage for announcing a new line of Windows 8 tablets.

At CES this year, Microsoft revealed that the next generation of Windows will run on ARM processors, low-power chips optimized for mobile devices. But the company wasn't quite ready to show off the Windows 8 user interface. The user interface was made public several months later, but it's still not clear when new devices will hit the market.

Ballmer will speak Jan. 9, 2012, at the Venetian hotel in Vegas. "We are pleased to welcome Microsoft back to the CES keynote stage," CES president Gary Shapiro said in a press release.

Tablets were all the rage at CES this year, with numerous Windows and Android devices unveiled.

IN PICTURES: The 11 hottest Windows and Android tablets unveiled at CES

But then the iPad 2 came along and wiped the competitors away, with usage more than 50 times greater than Android tablets.

While it might be refreshing to see Apple's competitors create something entirely new, for now Microsoft, HP, RIM and the legion of Android device makers are simply playing catch-up in an attempt to replicate the user experience of the iPad. Unless something major changes, we can expect more of the same at CES 2012.

Follow Jon Brodkin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jbrodkin

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