We might just get a sneak preview of Microsoft's next operating system at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. So suggests the New York Times, which has word from a "person with knowledge of Microsoft's plans" that Steve Ballmer could demonstrate a tablet and "other companion devices" running Windows 8 at the show.
The Times says Windows 7 tablets will be the main attraction, however. Ballmer is reportedly expected to show Windows 7 slates from Dell and Samsung, with the latter delivering a form factor similar to the iPad's and a slide-out keyboard for "easy typing." The Samsung device should display the regular Windows 7 interface with the keyboard out in landscape mode, but in portrait mode, users will be treated to a "layered interface"—presumably something better-suited to plain touch input.
Oh, and here's another interesting tidbit. According to the Times, Microsoft is encouraging developers to create HTML5-based web applications for Windows 7 slates and host the apps on their own websites. No iTunes App Store copycat there. Using HTML5 should in theory mean compatibility with non-Windows devices... including other tablets running other platforms. Pushing developers to embrace open standards instead of using proprietary Windows APIs doesn't sound very much like Microsoft, though, so I'm not holding my breath.