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Microsoft is kicking off its newest operating system, Windows 8, at a five-hour event 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. All Things D, C/Net and TechCrunch have live coverage.

Windows 8 will be available worldwide, beginning Friday, Oct. 26. It features a new “live” mosaic user interface and a wide range of applications with the grand opening of the Windows Store.

Microsoft says more than 1,000 certified PCs and tablets, including Microsoft Surface, will be available for the launch of Windows 8. The Windows event in New York also heralds the launch of the software company’s Surface tablet, its first venture into making computer devices.

So far, Windows RT machines are being made by Asus, Lenovo, Dell, Samsung and Microsoft’s own Surface RT. Windows RT can use many existing peripherals, including best-selling printers. In total, there are 420 million existing devices that will connect to Windows RT devices.

The Surface goes on sale Friday, as will tablets and convertibles, laptops and desktop computers running Windows 8. According to Microsoft, there are now over 1,000 certified Windows 8 PCs.

Windows RT works on tablets but can’t run legacy Windows programs. Windows 8, which requires at least an Atom chip, will run most of the legacy Microsoft programs.

Mosts analysts believe Microsoft will trail its rivals in fourth-quarter tablet sales. About half of business users still haven’t upgraded to Windows 7 from Windows XP, which came out in 2001.

Windows 7, was the first release of Windows to build on cloud services as a major part of the operating system. Today, SkyDrive users store more than 11 billion photos on the service and over 550 million documents, said, Steven Sinofsky, president of the company’s Windows and Windows Live division.

CEO Steve Ballmer predicted 400 million PCs will be sold within the next year. Windows 8 is a radical update to Microsoft’s core product. The operating system introduces a touchscreen-controlled interface featuring tiles. Users can also switch into a more traditional desktop mode.

Dozen of new PCs are launching alongside Windows 8. Some are inventive new designs with sliding keyboards and removable screens. C/Net has a complete list of new Windows 8 computers.

Windows 8 will be available for download to upgrade existing PCs beginning at midnight, local time and at retail locations around the world. At retail, Windows 8 will be available in two primary versions — Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro ($39 download) — as well as Windows 8 Enterprise for large organizations.

Through the end of January, consumers currently running PCs with Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7 are qualified to download an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for $39.99. And eligible Windows 7 PCs purchased between June 2, 2012, and Jan. 31, 2013, in more than 140 markets can download an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for $14.99 with the Windows Upgrade Offer, available at windowsupgradeoffer.com.
The Windows Store has a variety of apps for Windows 8 and Windows RT.

Windows Phone 8 has the same Live Tiles, the same Microsoft account and the same SkyDrive access. Windows Phone 8 will be officially rolled out on Monday, in San Francisco.

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