Microsoft Corp. kicks off a campaign for the U.S. launch of its newest operating system, Windows 8, on Thursday. The latest version of the world's most dominant computer operating software attempts to bridge the gap between personal computers and fast-growing tablets with its touch-enabled interface.
The event at New York's Pier 57 also heralds the launch of the software company's Surface tablet, its first venture into making computer devices. The device goes on sale Friday.
The five-hour launch event comes amid a slew of other tablet offerings ahead of the holidays.
Apple Inc. unveiled its iPad Mini with a 7.9-inch screen for $329 on Tuesday. In June, Google Inc. announced its $199 7-inch Nexus 7, while Amazon.com Inc. refreshed its Kindle Fire lineup with a 7-inch HD model for $199 last month.
Wedge Partners analyst Kirk Adams expects Microsoft to trail its rivals in fourth-quarter tablet sales.
In a research note issued last week, before the rumored iPad Mini was priced, Adams expected Microsoft to sell 1.75 million Surface units by the end of the year. That compares to 23 million for market-leader Apple, 5 million for Amazon, 4 million for Google, and 4 million for Samsung with its Galaxy line-up.
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 temporary 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 enterprise users still haven't upgraded to Windows 7 from Windows XP, which came out in 2001.