Is Microsoft prepping a Windows 8 tablet for CES?

Microsoft may be preparing to demo a Windows 8-powered tablet next month along with other mobile devices at CES 2011 in Las Vegas.

Although details are scarce, the New York Times reports that Redmond is expected to showcase “a slew” of new slates that could potentially compete with Apple’s wildly popular iPad.

At least some of the next-gen devices are slated to be debuted by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who will introduce tablets manufactured by both Dell and Samsung. 

So, what will the new tablets look like?

Well, the Samsung device is reportedly described as “similar in size and shape to the Apple iPad” – but not as thin.

It is also believed to feature a “unique and slick” keyboard that slides out for easy typing. 

Although the Samsung tablet runs Windows 7 when in landscape mode, it will boast a special “layered” UI that appears when the keyboard is hidden and in portrait mode.

“Microsoft [really] believes there is a huge market for business people who want to enjoy a slate for reading newspapers and magazines, and then work on Microsoft Word, Excel or PowerPoint while doing work,” an unnamed source told the NYT.

However, Goldman Sachs analyst Sarah Friar warns that Microsoft will find it quite difficult to challenge entrenched mobile competitors such as Google (Android) and Apple (iOS).

“[Surprisingly] a tablet response [from MS] is still not forth-coming,” Friar wrote in an industry note obtained by Tech Flash.

“[In addition], our early read on Windows Phone 7 has not yet changed our view that Microsoft’s share in mobile OSes will remain at only the single-digit level.” [[Microsoft]]