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Microsoft Tablet Takes On the iPad?
PHOTO: The Windows 8 Release Preview homescreen is pictured.

Microsoft will hold a media event in Los Angeles today where it is expected to announce a new Windows 8 tablet. The announcement, intentionally shrouded in mystery, is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Pacific Time (6:30 p.m. EDT).

The software giant sent out invitations to the press event late last week without saying what its subject would be. The e-mail invitation merely said the company would make a "major announcement."

Click Here for ABC News Live Blog: Microsoft Announcement, Beginning at 6:30 p.m. EDT.

However, sites including The Wrap, AllThingsD, and TechCrunch have since reported that the event would be centered on Microsoft's tablet strategy. Earlier this month Windows 8, Microsoft's forthcoming version of Windows for tablets, laptops, and desktop computers, hit the "release preview" stage, a final phase of development before it is marketed to the general public.

The Wrap, a Hollywood news site, reported on Friday that Microsoft would release a Microsoft-branded tablet at the event, rather than hardware made by one its partners, like Dell or HP. The site also reported that it would run Windows 8 RT, a version of Windows 8 for tablets. The noted technology website AllThingsD posted a similar story, saying it had heard from sources that the company was planning to release its own branded tablet running Windows 8 RT.

Windows 8 RT is the version of Windows meant for lower-powered tablets. These tablets will not have Intel processors, but rather are powered by ARM processors, which are currently found in smartphones and tablets, like the iPad and the Kindle Fire.

TechCrunch reported that sources said Microsoft would unveil a tablet "built in conjunction with Barnes & Noble." It said the new device would be "entertainment driven."

Barnes & Noble already makes its own Android Nook Tablet, but in April it announced a partnership with Microsoft.

ABC News has been told, however, that the event will not be focused on Barnes & Noble and Microsoft's new venture. "We are not part of Microsoft's announcement today," said Mary Ellen Keating of Barnes & Noble.

The new tablet is expected to have a wide range of media capabilities, including Xbox Live streaming and possible integration with the Hulu video service. At the E3 gaming show two weeks ago, Microsoft unveiled Smartglass, which allows you to use touch screen devices to interact with and control media through your Xbox console and then display content on your TV, Windows 8 PC or portable device.

Many have suggested there will be a Hollywood element to Microsoft's announcement, which would explain why the event is in Los Angeles.

Microsoft has not had a competitor for the iPad since Apple released the original version in 2010. Windows 8, which is due before the end of the year, has been the company's hope to compete against Apple's dominance in the tablet market. Apple sold 3 million of its new iPads in the first three days after its launch.

Microsoft currently makes its own line of computer accessories, including mice and keyboards, but hasn't had much success making its own phones or mobile devices. The Zune, Microsoft's iPod competitor, was recently discontinued and the KIN line of phones, which was aimed at teens, were pulled from the market within months of release.

Microsoft will end the mystery this afternoon. Stay tuned for ABC News' live coverage from Los Angeles at 6:30 p.m. EDT, including a liveblog and demos of what Microsoft shows off.

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