Is this the answer to the question we posed back in mid-June? Maybe. While we're still unsure if Hewlett-Packard has a webOS-based tablet in its pipeline, those on-again / off-again Windows 7 rumors may finally be nearing an end. On the homepage of this year's Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference -- which kicks off in earnest today in Washington, D.C. -- there's a pane of Windows 7 slates that are on deck for this year. Er, a pane with vendors promising Win7 slates this year. Sure enough, HP's logo is front and center, right alongside the likes of Sony, Dell, ASUS, Panasonic, Onkyo, Toshiba, MSI, Samsung, Lenovo and Fujitsu. We'll be keeping an ear to the ground for more, but for now, feel free to let your imaginations run wild. It's Monday, after all.

Update: During the event's opening keynote, which was headed by none other than Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, the bigwig confirmed some of what's pictured above: Windows 7 slates will be arriving this year. Interestingly, he never mentioned HP by name (despite teasing us gently at CES with an apparent mystery device), but he did note that devices would be available at various price points and in a variety of form factors -- "with keyboards, touch only, dockable, able to handle digital ink, etc." We already knew as much from being overwhelmed by prototypes at Computex, but it's good to get the word straight from Ballmer himself. Now, to see if anyone's actually interested in buying a desktop OS on a mobile form factor...

Update 2: Seems Ballmer's drinking his own Kool-Aid in a serious way, and not just on the tablet front. He noted that Microsoft will be giving consumers "a set of Windows-based devices that people will be proud to carry at home and will fit the kinds of scenarios enterprise IT's trying to make happen with the phone form factor," and that Microsoft would be "working vigorously" to "drive enterprise IT and consumers." Furthermore, Steve affirmed that the tablet sector is "terribly important" for his company, and that it's "hardcore about this." He didn't shy away from calling the range of Windows 7-based tablets coming out "over the next several months" ones that would be "quite impressive," but honestly -- what else would you expect him to say?

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Windows 7-based HP Slate referenced at WPC 2010, Ballmer says 'hardcore' tablet push coming