NEW YORK — As the holiday-shopping season nears, Microsoft and Apple have scheduled major events to unveil gadgets and software.
The Microsoft event Thursday will focus on Windows 8, a major update to its lucrative operating system. The new software will go on sale Friday, and PC manufacturers have a slew of desktops, laptops and tablet computers designed for it.
Apple is expected to unveil a smaller iPad at an event in San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday.
These are some gadgets to expect for the holidays:
Eyes on Apple devices
Apple has done well selling its full-size tablet computer, with a screen that measures nearly 10 inches diagonally. But companies such as Amazon.com Inc. and Google Inc. have made inroads selling tablets with 7-inch screens and lower prices.
Apple isn't commenting on its plans. Tech bloggers and analysts expect an “iPad Mini” — the name isn't confirmed — will have a 7.85-inch screen. Estimates on prices vary.
Last month, Apple began selling iPhone 5. The new phone is bigger but thinner than past models and works with faster cellular networks known as 4G. Apple also updated its phone software and replaced Google Inc.'s mapping service for its own.
Apple's leading rival, Samsung Electronics Co., came out with a new version of its flagship phone, the Galaxy S III, months ago. Samsung is known for releasing products all during the year, targeting different bases of consumers. For those who like to work with a stylus, the Galaxy Note II smartphone is coming soon.
Amazon's 7-inch Kindle Fire is one of the smaller tablets with decent sales. Last month, it started shipping a version with a faster processor, more memory and longer battery life. It cut the price to $159 from $199, compared to the iPad, which starts at $399.
Amazon also is releasing higher-end models under the Kindle Fire HD line. A 7-inch one is $199 and an 8.9-inch one is $299. A $499 model can use the 4G cellular networks phone companies have been building. A data plan costs an extra $50 a year. The smaller HD model is available. Larger ones will be available Nov. 20.
Barnes and Noble Inc. is updating its Nook tablets. The new Nook HD will come in two sizes: 7 inches (starting at $199) and 9 inches (starting at $269). They will be out Nov. 1.
Besides the new HD screen and a lighter body, Barnes & Noble is adding video purchase and rental service to Nook's menu.
All Google is saying about its event planned in New York next week is that it involves its Android operating system for mobile devices. Google started selling the Nexus 7 in summer and could use the event to tell of an update.