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When Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer takes the stage for his Jan. 9 keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show, he ll almost certainly whip the curtain back from a few company projects in development.

Chief among those will be Windows 8, the long-gestating operating system due to arrive sometime in the latter half of 2012. Microsoft’s teams have tailored its interface for both tablets and traditional PCs, giving users the chance to flip seamlessly between a regular desktop and a start screen of colorful (and potentially touchable) tiles linked to applications.

Will Ballmer use his stage time in Las Vegas to reveal upcoming Windows 8 devices? In 2010, he spent a good part of his speech demonstrating a tablet PC from Hewlett-Packard. Almost as portable as a phone, but powerful as a PC running Windows 7, he told the audience, while demonstrating the device s ability to display ebooks. The emerging category of PCs should take advantage of the touch and portability capabilities.

But that tablet never hit the market, most likely because of HP’s decision to use webOS as the software foundation for its first consumer tablet, and the next year Ballmer seemed more reluctant to use CES to show off products in development. Instead, he touted Kinect, the hands-free gaming controller for the Xbox, and repeated an earlier announcement that the next version of Windows would support system-on-a-chip (SoC) architecture. He also praised Windows Phone and promised the company would invest aggressively in the platform.  

But 2012 could mark the return of a Ballmer more willing to flash new and upcoming products. Indeed, the need for Windows 8 to perform at Windows 7 levels on the open market–that is, hundreds of millions of copies sold–could compel Ballmer to show Microsoft’s hardware partners as firmly behind the project, which means a substantial show of developing products at CES.

To read the original eWeek article, click here: Windows 8, Windows Phone Likely Focus of Ballmer CES Keynote