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Perhaps in a nod to its many manufacturing partners such as Dell and others, Microsoft didn’t talk about its own device, the Surface tablet, until the end of its morning presentation.

It followed that with a separate presentation in which Surface general manager Panos Panay dropped the tablet from shoulder height to the stage without breaking it to demonstrate the toughness of its glass and magnesium case. Sinofsky also showed off a couple of Surface devices the team had turned into skateboards by screwing on rails and wheels.

Ballmer, wrapping up an initial presentation, appeared to address concerns that the new Windows 8 interface, which emphasizes touch, has annoyed some early PC reviewers.

“Windows 8 shatters perceptions of what a PC now really is.”

Later, he addressed a concern that some PC users have had with pre-release versions of the software _ that it lacks a familiar “Start” button containing programs, settings and other controls. Microsoft has said its new interface, with its automatically updating tiles on the opening screen, replaces that button.

Asked by an Associated Press reporter if he might bring the “Start” button back, Ballmer replied, “You’ve got a whole screen as a `Start’ button,” while hurrying off.

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Nakashima contributed from Los Angeles.