18/06/2012 15:21 | By Adam Hartley, contributor, MSN Tech & Gadgets

Is Microsoft preparing to take on Apple's iPad?

The internet is all a-flutter with speculation of a possible Microsoft tablet being announced at a press conference happening later today. We've gathered all the rumours here so you can make your own mind up.

Could Microsoft be entering the tablet market? (© Ted S. Warren; AP; Press Association Images)

Microsoft is set to make a "major announcement" at some point later on today, with many speculating that the company is finally primed to take on the joint might of the Apple iPad and the Amazon Kindle by releasing its own touchscreen tablet device into the market.

The official announcement hits at 3.30pm Pacific Standard Time (that's 11.30pm GMT to us Brits), with Microsoft promising US-based tech hacks that the Los Angeles press event will be something they "will not want to miss".

And so the rampant rumour and speculation as to what Microsoft has up its sleeve has begun. We've trawled the internet for all the latest whisperings so you don't have to. Read on for what the web thinks is coming from today's Microsoft announcement.

Clearly, *something* big is afoot...
Leading US tech sites such as All Things D and The Wrap are convinced that the announcement is going to be a new Microsoft tablet computer to rival the market-owning Apple iPad and, perhaps, Amazon's Kindle Fire enhanced e-reader.

Others, such as the UK's games industry trade mag MCV, suggest that Microsoft's new tablet will also be able to stream Xbox Live games on the fly.

Whether today's Microsoft announcement turns out to be an all-singing all-dancing iPad-rival or something else entirely altogether remains to be seen... and we'll have to wait till close to midnight tonight to find out for sure.

Can Microsoft REALLY beat the Apple iPad?
The (now tired) phrase 'iPad-killer' has been bandied about ever since Steve Jobs first announced the original iPad way back in January 2010. Can Microsoft possibly succeed in an industry where many Android tablet manufacturers have successively tried and failed?

Hollywood-based website The Wrap cite an un-named source close to the supposed Microsoft tablet project team who told them that "Microsoft would introduce a Microsoft-manufactured tablet at the event, marking a foray into a new hardware category that would put the company in direct competition with giant rival Apple", also claiming that the new Microsoft tablet would run on the Windows RT operating system.

Microsoft has not responded to requests for further information on these specific rumours, but it is highly likely that - should a tablet be announced - the company will use its strategic partnership with British mobile chip manufacturer ARM to develop a tablet device with the best of the latest processing power possible.

- How much we want it - 10/10
- Probability factor - 9/10

Proper Xbox gaming on the go
Remember that, unlike Sony and Nintendo, Microsoft has never made any serious attempt to move into the mobile console gaming industry. The latest MS tablet rumours suggest that this new device could be indicative that the computing giant is finally making the move into mobile Xbox gaming.

Cynics abound within the gaming and music industries, with some claiming that a new Microsoft tablet "will be to the iPad what Zune was to the iPod and iPhone". Elsewhere, more optimistically minded games and music app developers are secretly hoping to see a high-powered always-on connected device that gives them the latest tech tools to create with.

Still, following the well-received announcement of the Microsoft SmartGlass application and concept at E3 earlier this month, one thing is for sure. Microsoft's Xbox division is looking very closely at where to take mobile gaming in the future.

- How much we want it - 10/10
- Probability factor - 5/10

New mobile movies and e-books wins for Microsoft?
Another rumour doing the rounds is that we could see Microsoft make a major deal out of its recent strategic partnership with major US bookseller Barnes and Noble.

TechCrunch expects to see a new Microsoft tablet produced with the US book retailer, heavily suggesting that the new Microsoft tablet device will be closer to the Amazon Kindle Fire than the Apple iPad.

Barnes and Noble recently hooked up with Microsoft to create a new business called Newco, into which Microsoft has already invested $300 million for a 17.6% share. All of which suggests Microsoft hopes to soon bring us better ways of buying and reading e-books. This, along with new announcements on how a new Microsoft-made tablet might work using SmartGlass to help you stream your music, movies and books to all your devices wherever you may be is surely a more-than-likely focus for Microsoft's rumoured move into the tablet hardware market.

- How much we want it - 7/10
- Probability factor - 8/10

But what do you want Microsoft to announce tonight? Leave us your thoughts below and stay tuned later tonight for all of the official news as it breaks from Microsoft's LA press conference.

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