Holiday Gadgets: Windows, iPads and More

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    As the holiday-shopping season approaches, Microsoft and Apple have unveiled new gadgets and software.

    Microsoft focused on Windows 8, a major update to its lucrative operating system. The new software is now available and PC manufacturers have a slew of desktops, laptops and tablet computers designed for it.

    Apple, meanwhile, unveiled a smaller iPad. It comes just weeks after the launch of a new iPhone.

    These are some of the gadgets to expect for the holidays:

    APPLE DEVICES:
    Apple has done well selling its full-sized tablet computer, which has a screen that measures nearly 10 inches diagonally. But companies such as Amazon.com Inc. and Google Inc. have made in-roads selling tablets with smaller, 7-inch screens and lower price tags. The new ”iPad Mini” will have a 7.85-inch screen.

    TABLET RIVALS:
    Amazon’s 7-inch Kindle Fire is one of the smaller tablets with decent sales. Last month, it started shipping an updated version with a faster processor, more memory and longer battery life. It also cut the price to $159, from $199, making it far cheaper than the iPad, which starts at $399.

    Amazon is also releasing higher-end models under the Kindle Fire HD line. A 7-inch one goes for $199 and an 8.9-inch one for $299. There’s also a $499 model that can use the 4G cellular networks that phone companies have been building. A data plan will cost an extra $50 a year.

    Barnes and Noble Inc. has also updated its Nook tablets. The new Nook HD will come in two sizes, one at 7 inches (starting at $199) and one at 9 inches (starting at $269).

    Toys R Us, meanwhile, is making a 7-inch tablet aimed at children. The Tabeo went on sale this week for $149.99.

    CALLING ON WINDOWS
    Microsoft Corp. has released a new version of the Windows operating system one that’s designed to work on both traditional computers and tablet devices.

    Microsoft plans its own tablet computer, too. The Surface tablet comes in two versions, both with 10.6-inch screens, slightly larger than the iPad’s.
    One model will run on the same type of lower-energy chips used in the iPad. It will start at $499, also like the newest, full-sized iPads. A keyboard cover will cost another $100.

    PLAYING GAMES
    Nintendo’s new Wii U game machine is now available. A basic, white model will cost $300. A deluxe black version for another $50 comes with an extra game and more accessories. The GamePad touch-screen controller for it will offer new ways to play.

    In ”New Super Mario Bros. U.,” for example, players holding the old Wii controllers control Mario, Luigi and other characters. The person with the GamePad can help them along by using a stylus to create stepping stones for the characters or stun enemies.

    Players can also turn off the TV entirely and play on the GamePad.

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