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The biggest obstacle to Surface adoption thus far has been its high price tag, and while Microsoft isn't talking specifics about how much Surface 2.0 will cost, Ballmer did say it'll be less expensive than the previous model.
Speculation has been rampant in recent weeks that Microsoft might debut a wave of Windows 7 powered tablet PCs at CES, and this turned out to be on the mark. Most of these tablets are set for release in the next few months, and they come in a wide range of shapes and sizes -- in line with how Ballmer has repeatedly explained how Microsoft's tablet strategy would look once it was fully baked.
Ballmer and Angiulo showed off Samsung's Sliding PC 7, a hybrid 10.inch touch screen tablet with a physical keyboard that weighs just one kilogram and runs without a fan. Asus' new Eee Slate EP121, which is more akin to a fully powered Windows PC and comes equipped with Intel's Core i5 processor, features a 12.1 inch capacitive touch screen made from Gorilla Glass and handwriting recognition support in 26 languages.
Ballmer and Angiulo also displayed Acer's Iconia, which looks like a notebook but substitutes a touch screen where the physical keyboard should be. Acer debuted the Iconia in November, and judging from the reaction of audience members it's a device that will have a tough time remaining on store shelves.
Microsoft has taken a lot of heat for its slow move into tablets, and for insisting on building them around Windows 7 as opposed to Windows Phone 7. Ballmer could have been forgiven for exuding an air of "I told you so" in touting these impressive new tablets from OEM partners. But if anything, Ballmer seemed to downplay the fact that these were, in fact, the long awaited Windows 7 tablets that pundits have been unable to stop blabbing about.
Microsoft for the past year has been steadfast in its insistence that Windows 7 will work well not just in desktops and notebooks but also in tablets and other form factors. This explains the lack of preening over the arrival -- finally -- of devices that can give iPad and Android tablets a run for their money.