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Microsoft to unveil tablet with Barnes & Noble?

Mysterious event in LA will feature tablet that taps partnership between the two companies, a source tells TechCrunch.

Is Microsoft getting ready to launch its own tablet?

Microsoft's mysterious media event scheduled for tomorrow has generated a lot of speculation about what the software giant has up its sleeve, with many bets being placed on a new tablet to challenge Apple's iPad.

Now we are hearing that while the tech titan is indeed expected to unveil a tablet, the new product is being developed in conjunction with Barnes & Noble and will focus on entertainment, according to a TechCrunch report. Another source says Xbox streaming is also on tap for the tablet.

If true, the report suggests that a new Microsoft tablet would be aimed at Amazon's Kindle Fire rather than Apple's slate. While Amazon's tablet is popular in the e-reading sector, its modified version of the Android operating system tends to make it less optimum for Web surfing than its focus of e-reading magazines and books, listening to music, and streaming video through Amazon Prime. (This was a possible strategy that was first suggested by Mary Jo Foley, my colleague at ZDNet.) Additionally, the two booksellers have for years been locked in a bitter battle for content and customers.

Not long after the media invitations to tomorrow's event in Los Angeles surfaced, speculation swirled that Microsoft was getting ready to unveil a tablet running either Windows 8 or Windows RT. The Wrap went so far as to report that the new device would be a "Microsoft-manufactured tablet" that would "put the company in direct competition with giant rival Apple."

The two companies announced a partnership in April in which Microsoft invested $300 million into a new Barnes & Noble subsidiary that would focus on Barnes & Noble's Nook digital and college businesses. In exchange, Barnes & Noble agreed to load its Nook digital bookstore with Windows 8, the software giant's next-generation operating system that launches later this year.

The doors open Monday at 3:30 p.m. PT, with the event itself presumably beginning at 4 sharp. To follow along with CNET, you can just bookmark this link and come back to it tomorrow.