Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will announce a multimedia tablet computer on Wednesday to be made by HP, according to a news report, just as hype about a rumoured similar device from Apple peaks.

Ballmer will reveal the touchscreen, slate-style computer during his keynote speech at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), The New York Times said late Tuesday, citing unnamed sources. Such a move would come just a few weeks before Apple is expected to announce its own, much-hyped tablet computer.

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.