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Google and Microsoft Launch New Products (In the Middle of Hurricane Sandy)

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Here's what happened in the world of Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Google and more while the East Coast was otherwise occupied.

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MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL If you launch a product in the middle of a hurricane, does it make any noise? No. Not even if you launch it on the West Coast, three thousand miles out of the path of Hurricane Sandy. Here's a summary of technology industry news that you almost certainly missed at the start of this week.

Windows 8 Phones Drop: Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) officially unveiled the first round of Windows 8 phones, from device makers including Nokia (NYSE:NOK), HTC (TPE:2498) and Samsung (PINK:SSNLF). Mobile operators AT&T (NYSE:T), T-Mobile (PINK:DTEGY) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ) all will feature Windows 8 phones starting Friday, Nov. 2. Reviews are generally positive, but there's one big potential drag on early adoption: the relative lack of available apps. Microsoft insists that 46 of the top 50 most popular smart phone apps will be ready for Windows 8 by January. But at this moment, you can't even get Skype for it, and Microsoft owns that.

iPad Mini Wins by Default: The Guardian flatly predicts that the new Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad Mini will be the best-selling small tablet device of the upcoming holiday season. This can be stated with confidence because the Apple device will be available in 34 countries, many more than the competing devices from Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN).

More Jelly Beans From Google: Google had to cancel its big Monday press event in New York, but somebody stayed in the office long enough to issue the press release. The company has a few new flavors in its Jelly Bean line, to use the code name for its latest version of Android:
  • The Nexus 4, its new flagship smart phone, will be made by LG. The biggest new feature is wireless charging capability. Pricing will be $299 for the 8GB version or $399 for 16 GB, unlocked and without a contract.
  • Nexus 10 is, as everyone surmised, a 10-inch tablet to be made by Samsung but branded by Google. This jumbo-sized tablet is the one that will compete directly against the Microsoft Surface in the upcoming holiday season, with prices at $399 for 16 GB and $499 for 32 GB.
  • A newer Nexus 7. The smaller tablet will go up against Amazon's Kindle Fire, at $199 for 18 GB and $249 for 32 GB.
Nobody Knows What Windows 8 Is: It's being officially released this Friday, but about 52% of adults in the US don't know what Windows 8 is, and 61% say they have little or no interest in buying a new laptop that has it. That's the conclusion of a new poll by The Associated Press and GfK. Then again, Microsoft has so far spent only a fraction of the $1 billion it reportedly will shell out to market the latest version of its operating system.

Reorg at PayPal: The PayPal division of eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) announced that it has laid off 325 employees and eliminated 120 contractors as part of a "reorganization" ordered by new company President David Marcus. The move merges nine product development groups into one. Marcus said the unit needs to be nimbler to keep up with new rivals in the electronic payments space. A $15 million pre-tax restructuring charge related to the layoffs will be recorded in the fourth quarter.

Amazon Bites Apple: Amazon is going all aggressive in its competition against Apple, with a home page splash that compares its Kindle Fire HD with the new iPad Mini, feature by feature. The ad comes complete with a quote from gadget site Gizmodo dinging Apple for charging more for less. The Kindle Fire starts at $199, compared with $329 for the iPad.

Shakeup at Apple: Two high-profile Apple executives have been fired as part of what The New York Times describes as a management shakeup. It sounds like interdepartmental dueling egos got out of control after the untimely death of founder Steve Jobs. Scott Forstall, head of software development for the iPad and iPhone, is out. So is John Browett, head of the company's retail operations. Sounds like Forstall's big mistake was refusing to sign a public letter of apology for Apple's widely-derided new maps feature. Company CEO Tim Cook had no problem signing it.
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