Microsoft launches Windows 8 with great fanfare, few surprises

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Microsoft introduced Windows 8 to the public Thursday, showcasing the touchable and intuitive operating system on a slew of desktops, laptops, and tablets from the company’s OEM partners. (Related: PCWorld Windows 8 review )

While Microsoft executives highlighted the differences between Windows 8 and Windows RT, a distinction in desperate need of clarification for consumers, the event unveiled no surprises or high-profile app announcements. “More to come” was an oft-repeated phrase.

Instead of stunning the New York City audience with new details, Microsoft used the event to simultaneously demonstrate Windows 8 and support its hardware partners’ creations, which run the gamut from desktops to laptops to tablets to hybrid tablet-laptops.

“Our partners have come up with incredible new designs,” Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said. “Are these new designs PCs? Yes. Are these new designs tablets also? Yes.”

Microsoft executives Julie Larson-Green, left, and Michael Angiulo display new Windows 8 hardware.

One of the loudest rounds of applause during the entire event came when Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live Division at Microsoft, told the audience that Windows 8 would result in a much faster boot up time for PCs.

Surface RT

Angiulo included the company’s own Surface RT tablet in that lineup. Microsoft said the Surface will go on sale at 10 p.m. ET Thursday at the Microsoft Store in Times Square.

“(The Surface) makes a great addition to the rest of the PCs our partners have built,” Angiulo said, perhaps assuaging fears that Microsoft’s first hardware device would steal its partners’ sunshine. (Related: PCWorld Surface RT review)

Angiulo used the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 and the Acer Aspire S7-191 laptop to show off the touch capabilities of Windows 8. While much ado was made over how easy it is to navigate apps on Windows 8 machines, either using a touch-screen or trackpad, there were no new app announcements. The online Windows Store, which is now open, is notably bereft of big-name apps like YouTube and Twitter. An online answer tech for the store said no Windows 8 apps could be purchased today.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

“Some might rush to count apps or look for their favorite apps to arrive in the store,” Ballmer said at the presentation in New York, alluding to press coverage of the Windows Store, the eventual app center for Windows 8 and for Windows RT.

“Our app store has more apps than any competing app store had in its grand opening,” Ballmer added.

Apple’s App Store had some 500 apps when it debuted in July 2008, while the Android Market (now Google Play) had 2,300 apps a few months after launching in October 2008. The Windows Store as of Tuesday had nearly 8,000 apps available worldwide.

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