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Windows 8 tablet could be Kindle Fire rival

Rumours suggest the Microsoft Windows 8 tablet, set to be announced later today, will be a partnership with US bookseller Barnes & Noble.

Microsoft is set to announce a Windows 8 tablet later today -- but new rumours suggest it'll involve US bookseller Barnes & Noble. Does that mean it'll be a rival to the Amazon Kindle Fire rather than the iPad -- and does it mean it won't come to the UK?

We were expecting a Microsoft-branded tablet that shows off Windows 8, in the style of Google's Nexus phones, which act as a flagship for each generation of Android software. But the tablet may be the fruit of a recent deal between Microsoft and Barnes & Noble, according to The Verge, perhaps creating a multimedia-focused device like the Kindle Fire.

Microsoft has poured $300m into the strategic partnership. Interesting stuff -- if you're in the US. Barnes & Noble doesn't have a presence on this side of the pond, and the company's Nook ebook reader -- possibly the biggest rival to Amazon's Kindle -- isn't on sale here either. That suggests we won't get the tablet announced tonight, which is a shame.

Xbox Live streaming could also be involved, and we'll be really annoyed if we miss out on that. We'll find out tonight, as the announcement kicks off in the US at 3.30pm Pacific time or around 11.30pm UK time.

Windows 8 is designed to work on both tablets and desktop computers, with an interface based on large colourful squares that suit a touchscreen as well as a laptop or desktop computer. For more on how it works, check out our guide to Windows 8's new interface.

Ahead of the public unveiling of Windows 8 later in the year, we've seen our first glimpse of the tablets that will use the new software, including a selection of weird and wonderful slates from Asus. The Asus Transformer AiO runs both Windows 8 and Android, while the Asus Taichi is a laptop-tablet hybrid with a screen on the lid. Bonkers!

You can try out Windows 8 for yourself by downloading the release preview, a kind of sneak peek at the new operating system -- click here to check out our thoughts on the unfinished software.

Do you want to get your hands on a Microsoft tablet? Do you expect it to come to this country? Tell me your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook page.

Update: Barnes & Noble has distanced itself from the rumour, but the specs of an Xbox-related tablet called Surface have, er, surfaced.