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10/25/2012
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Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung: Battle Of The Buzz

Tech's biggest rivals are all are making huge, splashy product debuts this week as they jostle for consumer attention--and dollars.

8 Key Differences Between Windows 8 And Windows RT
8 Key Differences Between Windows 8 And Windows RT
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Based on the number of massive product launches occurring this week and next, you'd almost be forgiven for thinking we're in the middle of the Consumer Electronics Show. Instead, it's the end of October and all the major industry players are making their last bets before the holiday shopping season begins in earnest.

The stakes are higher than ever. Smartphones and tablets are hot ticket items that consumers--and businesses--want or need to help run their lives. The players aren't only jostling for retail success, they're kicking one another under the table with patent lawsuits and other legal means in hopes of scoring a payday, or at least keeping the other guy from winning.

In case you've just returned from a disconnected vacation, here's what been shaking the last few days.

[ Not sold? Read Windows 8: Why I Won't Upgrade. ]

On Tuesday, Apple announced the iPad Mini and a refreshed line of laptops and desktops. The iPad Mini might have been the star of Apple's show, but the updated computers play an important role in shaping the Cupertino-based firm's success, too. Sales of Mac computers continue to buck the general downward trend in the industry. Between the news iPods and iPhone 5 announced in September, the iPad Mini, new iPad 4, and new desktops and laptops, Apple has refreshed nearly its entire lineup in the last few months, giving people plenty of reason to head to their local Apple Store.

On Wednesday, Samsung hosted a barnstormer of a party in Manhattan to celebrate the U.S. launch of the Galaxy Note II. Samsung threw a lot of money at the event, which was a spectacle featuring Kanye West, product demos, and smartphone giveaways. It's the largest phone launch party I've seen this year. The Note II is an important product for Samsung, which is looking to set itself apart from competitor Apple by offering a wide selection of devices. The Note II is at the top of Samsung's heap when it comes to features and capabilities. The Note II is selling for $299 from AT&T, Sprint, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless. T-Mobile is charging $369. Clearly, Samsung wants its fair share of attention, as more than 600 members of the press registered for the event.

On Thursday, Microsoft is launching Windows 8, its next-generation desktop platform. It, too, is hosting a huge event in New York City to show off its latest operating system. The new OS is a departure from its legacy platforms and is also a huge risk for Microsoft. Windows has needed a kick in the pants for the better part of a decade, and Windows 8 is it. Windows is Microsoft's bread-and-butter business. It hopes to sell a lot of Windows 8 machines in the coming months.

On Monday, Oct. 29, Google is hosting its own gathering in New York City. What's on deck? Oh, only the next Nexus smartphone, Nexus tablet, and new version of Android. The Nexus 4, a re-skinned version of the LG Optimus G, is expected to debut along with Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. Google is also expected to show off a refreshed Nexus 7 tablet and a brand new Nexus 10 tablet. The Nexus 7 tablet will go head-to-head with the iPad Mini this holiday season, and the Nexus 10 will go head-to-head with the iPad 4. All of these products will be battling Windows RT tablets.

Also on Monday, Microsoft is hosting another launch, this time for Windows Phone 8. The timing of the WP8 launch is critical. It follows the launch of Windows 8 for a reason: It uses the same source kernel and is the realization of years of work on Microsoft's part to align its desktop and mobile platforms. Microsoft doesn't expect Windows Phone 8 sales to take off right away, but hopes that once people settle in with their Windows 8 machines, they'll see the appeal of the tile-based operating system.

Combined, these events set the stage for what will surely be a competitive consumer electronics scene for the remainder of the year and into 2013.

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