Analysts dissect Microsoft's Windows 8 pitch

Was the long-anticipated debut the best Windows send-off in nearly 20 years, or just 'bupkis?'

Microsoft's top executives, including CEO Steve Ballmer and the head of Windows, Steven Sinofsky, took the stage in New York today to launch Windows 8 and its sibling, Windows RT.

Analysts' impressions were mixed, with some asking, "Is that all?" while others called the presentation the best Windows launch in nearly 20 years.

"Yeah, I'm really excited," Ballmer said as he stepped into the limelight near the end of the hour-long webcast presentation. Moments later, he called the new Windows tablets, and by reference, Windows 8 and Windows RT, "really, truly magical," perhaps intentionally escalating the adjective that former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who religiously used "magical" to describe his company's new products, was so fond of.

Frank Gillett, an analyst with Forrester who was at the event, was nonplused about the keynote -- even Ballmer's time on stage.

"He wasn't out of control, but he had more emotion than the others," said Gillett. "But even though he had more energy, there was some snap missing. And I have to say that they didn't do anything that made me feel good about how they're going to eliminate the confusion that consumers will have facing buying decisions."

Others countered, however.

"Ballmer doing a great job on stage," tweeted Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, from the event.

Microsoft's CEO was easily the most energetic of the four speakers the company put on stage today, speaking clearly, sometimes quickly, about what he saw as the strengths of the new operating system.

"This leaves no doubt that Windows 8 shatters the perception of what a PC really is," Ballmer said. "One device now pairs the greatest qualities of the PC and the greatest qualities of the tablet experience. Are these new designs PCs? Yes. Are these new designs tablets? Yes."

He was referring to the many keyboard-equipped tablets and so-called "hybrids" -- systems that combine elements of both a tablet and an ultra-thin notebook -- that Microsoft and its OEM partners are introducing alongside Windows 8 and Windows RT.

Before Ballmer's moments on stage, Sinofsky kicked things off with a recap of Windows 7's success, reiterated that the Windows 8 upgrade will be available at 12:01 a.m. local time Friday, then took on the tough task of explaining the differences between Windows 8 and Windows RT, something even industry veterans and long-time IT professionals have struggled to digest.

"We shunned the incremental," Sinofsky said as he described the development of Windows 8. "This is the next generation of Windows, computing for the next billion people. This is the best release of Windows ever ... [and] these are the best PCs ever made."

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