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For Windows 8, Microsoft throws a huge party

Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer looks over a

Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer looks over a table of computers running Windows 8 during a five-hour Microsoft event Thursday at Pier 57 to introduce the software. (Oct. 25, 2012) Photo Credit: Bloomberg News

Microsoft is throwing a five-hour party to start a campaign for its newest operating system, Windows 8, at 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.

The launch event comes at the same time as other holiday tablet offerings. Apple unveiled its iPad Mini with a 7.9-inch screen on Tuesday. Inc. and Barnes & Noble Inc., makers of the 7-inch Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet, are coming out with larger versions next month.

The Windows event in Manhattan also celebrates the launch of the software company's online store and its Surface tablet, its first venture into making computer devices. The device goes on sale Friday, as will computers and other tablets running Windows 8.

Wedge Partners analyst Kirk Adams expects Microsoft to trail its rivals in fourth-quarter tablet sales.

One factor that might dampen enthusiasm for the Surface is its price -- $599 with its touch keyboard cover -- and its availability for purchase only from a limited number of Microsoft stores and online, Adams said. He said consumers may be reluctant to buy the device until they can try it in person.

Meanwhile, most analysts believe companies and governments will hold off on upgrading to Windows 8 for at least another year. About half of business users still haven't upgraded to Windows 7 from Windows XP, which came out in 2001.

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