Microsoft Corp launches Windows 8
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Microsoft Corp put its Surface tablet center stage at its Windows 8 launch event, hoping the sleek new device will spark a fightback against Apple Inc and Google Inc in the exploding mobile computing market.
With interest in traditional computers waning, the world's largest software company is attempting to reinvent the Windows PC in a new format and directly challenge Apple's all-conquering iPad.
One person called it historic, unique, said Steven Sinofsky, head of Microsoft's Windows unit and the driving force behind Windows 8, who opened the launch event in New York in front about 1,000 media and PC industry partners.
It's twice the amount of storage as a competing tablet for the same price, Sinofsky said, comparing the entry level 32 GB Surface with the cheapest 16 GB model of Apple's latest full-sized iPad, which both cost $499.
Sinofsky and his team showed off a range of devices running Windows 8 from PC makers such as Lenovo Group Ltd and Acer Inc, but devoted most of their energy to the second half of the presentation and the Surface tablet, the first computer Microsoft has made itself.
Panos Panay, head of the Surface project, demonstrated the tablet's features, beaming video and music to other screens, showing off the ultra-thin cover that doubles as a keyboard, and hooking up a camera to the device's USB port. He even dropped the device on the floor to demonstrate its durability.
Microsoft stressed that the Surface, featuring a pre-installed version of Office, is not just for entertainment but also for work.
The device has generated a lot of curiosity, but so far has not garnered rave reviews and users seem unconvinced.
It's really a new class of device that sees the tablet and PC experiences merging into a single device instead of discrete ones, said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at tech research firm Gartner, who attended the launch. Microsoft's challenge now will be to educate the market as to why different is also better.
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