- Associated Press - Thursday, October 25, 2012

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.

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2:25 p.m.

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.

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2:15 p.m.

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.

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