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Microsoft Launches Windows 8, Surface Tablets

The new touchscreen-favoring widgetry will turn up on hundreds of x86 PCs, tablets and hybrids in the coming months

Microsoft Thursday launched the biggest, most dramatic makeover of its operating system since Windows went graphical, perfuming the effort with a billion-dollar marketing budget.

Windows 8 will be on the street Friday, October 26. It has to best the competition from the smartphones and iPads that have helped Apple and Google suck up a lot of Microsoft's business.

If the new un-Microsoft-like operating system doesn't catch on - it has no familiar Start button or menu - it could be curtains for CEO Steve Ballmer and maybe even the company.

Microsoft has been late to the Internet, search and mobile and looks to be an old relic, whose stock barely moves anymore, compared to Apple, Google and Amazon.

The new touchscreen-favoring widgetry - with colored tiles instead of icons to indicate applications - will turn up on hundreds of x86 PCs, tablets and hybrids in the coming months. Although PCs are currently not in favor, Microsoft hopes to rekindle their ebbing light. The widgetry can still be controlled by a mouse and a keyboard by switching to desktop mode just like the good old days.

And desperate PC vendors are reportedly betting 40% more on 8 than they did on 7.

Meanwhile, Microsoft will immediately start selling its newfangled OEM-alienating ARM-based Surface tablet with its eight-inch touchscreen bundled with the code, which doesn't run the scads of software that run on the x86.

Although it comes standard with Word, Excel and PowerPoint, need anyone say Microsoft needs to woo developers to fill its new online store?

It's also predicted to confuse consumers.

The Wi-Fi-only Surface, Microsoft's first venture in building its own computer, starts at $499 with twice the storage of the iPad.

It'll take Microsoft a few more months to get its x86 tablets out. Presumably they will have the came kind of covers as the ARM widgets. They cleverly turn into either key-less keyboards or traditional keyboards to do real work as well as play movies. They also have kickstands that prop up the gadgets at a carefully thought out angle and UBS ports for peripherals.

Microsoft has yet to convince half its install corporate and government base to switch to Windows 7 let alone jump to Windows 8, a migration that could take a year or more.

Yahoo's new Google-bred CEO isn't happy with Yahoo's deal with Microsoft that currently brings in 12% of Microsoft's revenues and Nokia, which adopted Windows Phone, looks destined to fail.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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