Microsoft is expected to launch a tablet computer, manufactured by HP, at CES this week.

The news comes amid rumours that Apple is poised to launch its own multimedia tablet this month.

It is thought Steve Ballmer wil unveil the touchscreen, slate-style computer during his keynote speech at CES, The New York Times said, citing unnamed sources.

Ballmer will show the device, which is not yet named but will combine multitouch and e-reader functions, the report said. HP will make the device and it could be available mid-year, it said.

The report comes as signs grow that touch-based devices will take much of the limelight at CES this year. Both HP and Lenovo have announced new netbooks with touchscreen support this week.

An HP spokeswoman declined to comment on the report. Microsoft representatives could not immediately be reached for comment.

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See also: First Lenovo 'smartbook' on show at CES