Windows 7, Natal talk on tap from Ballmer

The Microsoft honcho will speak Wednesday night, but don't expect to hear much about Windows Mobile 7.

Although CES announcements are already well under way, the event itself will formally kick off Wednesday night, when Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer takes to the stage for the second year running , occupying a spot long held by company chairman Bill Gates.

Steve Ballmer
CEO Steve Ballmer at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference in July. Microsoft

In his keynote, Ballmer is expected to tout Windows 7--how well its sales are doing and show off the latest PCs running the new operating system. (Update: As noted by The New York Times late Tuesday, among the devices Ballmer is expected to tout is a slate-form, touch-screen tablet computer. However, industry sources tell CNET that the device is an evolution of the kinds of tablet PCs long offered in the Windows world, as opposed to an earth-shattering device designed to rival Apple's as-yet-unannounced tablet .)

The company is also expected to tout its gaming presence and how it expects to carry things forward from its Xbox 360, which executives said is only half way through its life even at 5 years old. Last year, the company showed off its motion-sensing Project Natal , which is expected this year. Those interested in Natal should learn at least a little more at CES, I'm hearing.

Microsoft is also likely to talk more broadly about the role it sees for new user interfaces, especially touch.

As for Windows Mobile 7 , folks will have to wait just a bit longer to hear how Microsoft plans to try to keep pace with Google and Apple. Microsoft is expected to talk about the oft-delayed operating system at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February and again at its Mix show in Vegas in March.

The software maker also appears unlikely to roll out its rumored Courier tablet, although Microsoft is also likely to talk about its in-car efforts , including the latest in its Ford Sync initiative .

Ahead of the keynote, Microsoft also announced its pricing for Office 2010 , which is in beta testing and due out in final form later this year.

 

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