NEW YORK (AP) — Microsoft kicked off a campaign for its newest operating system, Windows 8, and its Surface tablet computer at New York's Pier 57. Designed to run on both PCs and tablet computers, Windows 8 heralds the biggest change to the industry's dominant operating system in at least 17 years.
Windows 8 attempts to bridge the gap between personal computers and fast-growing tablets with its touch-enabled interface. It represents Microsoft's answer to the growing challenge from Apple's iPad.
The launch event came amid a slew of other tablet offerings ahead of the holidays. Apple Inc. unveiled its iPad Mini with a 7.9-inch screen on Tuesday. Amazon.com Inc. and Barnes & Noble Inc., makers of the 7-inch Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet, are coming out with larger versions next month.
Surface is Microsoft's first venture into making computer devices. The device goes on sale Friday, as will computers and other tablets running Windows 8.
Here's a running account of the Windows 8 event, presented in reverse chronological order. All times are EDT.
Presenters include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer; Windows chief Steven Sinofsky; Julie Larson-Green, the executive in charge of Windows Program Management; Michael Angiulo, who heads the Windows Client and Ecosystem Team; and Panos Panay, general manager of the Surface team.
People in the audience were given hands-on time with the Surface after the presentation.
There were few surprises during either of the presentations. In afternoon trading, Microsoft gained 2 cents to $27.92.
What is Surface, a laptop or a tablet?
"It's not just a tablet, but it's actually the best tablet I've ever used," Sinofsky said. "It's not just a laptop, but it's the best laptop I've ever used."
Sinofsky said the Surface has twice the storage memory as competitors for the same price — though he didn't mention that about half of it gets taken up by the operating system and pre-loaded software.
The Surface event wrapped after about 40 minutes.
There's a keyboard cover for Surface, costing $100 extra for the basic, $499 device. There are "keys" on the cover that allow for typing. Panay noted that the cover is pressure-sensing, so if you just rest your hands on it, it's not going to start erratically typing.
The cover also folds back and can act as a support for the device's kickstand if you're placing it on your lap.
As previously disclosed, the Surface will come with the Office software suite for word processing, spreadsheets and other business tasks. Other tablets running Windows RT, the lightweight version of the operating system, will also come with a version of Office for free.
The Surface has a kickstand. The back camera is angled in such a way that when it's leaning on the stand, it shoots straight out, not toward the table.
In a gimmick to show its durability, Microsoft showed a picture of Sinofsky standing on a Surface outfitted with wheels to make a skateboard. The company also showed three skateboard Surfaces on stage.
Microsoft described Surface as an extension of Windows, though the company noted that it's about extending other Microsoft products, too. Panay demonstrated watching movies and listening to music on the Surface and used an Xbox to relay content.
Microsoft began a launch event for the Surface tablet at the same location at Pier 57.
One thing missing from Thursday's launch event: partners, such as PC makers, on stage.
With the launch of Surface, Microsoft is competing with some of its partners. One analyst suggested that PC makers didn't want to come because of that, as going alone in a presentation was unusual.
"Maybe it's a freeze-out because of the Surface," said Richard Doherty, CEO of technology assessment and market research company Envisioneering.
Larson-Green said there was no such tension. She said PC makers gave Microsoft devices to show on stage, and representatives from each of them were in the audience.
"We made it a Microsoft event to keep it short," Larson-Green said.
The event clocked in at less than an hour. By contrast, Apple's event Tuesday went about 75 minutes — and that was short for the company. That event didn't have any partners either, though past events from Apple have had them.
Included with Windows 8 is a new version of Microsoft's browser, Internet Explorer 10. Microsoft says it's "perfect for touch" and will be designed to work seamlessly with its Internet-based storage service, SkyDrive. It's similar to how the latest version of Apple's Safari browser on Mac computers works with its iCloud storage service. In the case of Apple, Web pages open on other machines logged in with the same account can be easily accessed.
One of the biggest changes with Windows 8 is the disappearance of the familiar start button at the lower left corner of the screen. It has been used to pull up a menu of applications and settings, and to shut down or restart the computer. Instead, people will have to swipe the edges of the screen.
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