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Updated: Oct 13, 2012 12:34 PM EDT
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Expected to release its new operating system, Windows 8, and first tablet device, the Surface, at Midnight Oct. 26 all eyes are surprisingly on Microsoft. While the company hasn't said much of its new ventures, or given the public much time with them just yet, you can now pre-order Windows 8.

How to pre-order

Microsoft announced on its blog that users can reserve a packaged DVD of Window 8 Pro for $69.99 at Amazon, Best Buy, Staples, Office Depot, Microsoft stores and other retailers. Users can also upgrade their devices for $40 beginning Oct. 26, the day the system officially launches with Microsoft's Surface tablets.

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Both of those offers run through Jan. 31.

Users can of course also get Windows 8 through the purchase of a new PC or other devices; Sony, Asus, Acer, Dell and HP have all announced new computers that will run the upgrade.

Microsoft is trying to make it easy for everyone to upgrade to Windows 8. Even if you just bought a PC that runs Windows 7, eligible PCs can upgrade to Windows 8 for $14.99 between June 2 and Jan. 31. To take advantage of the deal, register your qualifying PC at Microsoft's Upgrade Offer Web site. Microsoft will then send a promotional code that gives access to the reduced price.

Windows 8 and Surface are important steps for Microsoft

Despite Apple's continued dominance, and companies like Amazon and Google making successful forays into integrated hardware-software devices, everyone seems to recognize that Microsoft's Surface is a make or break situation for the company.

While the public hasn't gotten its hands on the Surface yet, and we haven't had much word from Microsoft about the device, everyone is taking notice of Surface's potential.

Google's Executive Chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt said that Microsoft's Surface tablet will mean a lot for the company. Of course, that all depends on if the product works, he added.

Although the Google executive described Microsoft's upcoming Surface in a positive light, the sentiment was balanced by Schmidt adding that Microsoft has fallen behind in terms of influence, mentioning that the company isn't part of the "Gang of Four," which he says includes Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook.

Microsoft has not yet released any "state-of-the-art products" into the major technology fields, according to Schmidt.

This is part of the larger trend of the company falling behind as other tech giants race to compete with smartphones and tablet devices. Windows sales fell three percent between June 2011 and June 2012, and Windows Phone has failed to catch on despite a massive advertising blitz and partnership with Nokia.

If Microsoft wants to remain relevant and successful, the company has to adapt to where these future streams of revenue are moving.

A successful Surface with innovative features would buy back priceless amounts of goodwill with the public and would do wonders for Microsoft's branding. Especially considering flagging PC sales, Microsoft needs to follow suit with its competitors and continue to branch out.

Microsoft will release Surface on Oct. 26, with a launch event set for Oct. 25.

"There will be times when we build specific devices for specific purposes, as we have chosen to do with Xbox and the recently announced Microsoft Surface," Ballmer wrote in  a note to investors. "It truly is a new era at Microsoft -- an era of incredible opportunity for us."

Microsoft Surface tablet features

The RT sports an HD screen, which various sources have reported is anywhere between 1280 x 800 and 1366x768, while the PRO has a 10.6-inch Clear type Full HD (1920 x 1080) screen with 16:9 widescreen.

That means they are among the biggest tablets in the market. If you are not satisfied with the typical 10.1-inch tablet, you can go for the Surface tablet. Along with the touch keyboards with the device, you can turn the machine to a small notebook.

The Surface tablet comes with five Touch Covers. Different from typical keyboards, the Surface keypads provide a smoother typing experience thanks to their touch-based surface.

The Surface tablets mount both front and rear cameras. The front camera, named life cam by Microsoft, makes the tablet ideal for video chatting through Skype or other services. Using the rear camera, you can capture images and video clips.

Microsoft puts forward better memory options with the Surface tablets. The device comes in 32GB, 64GB and 128GB options. The 128GB is available only with Surface Pro. Further, you can expand the memory using external memory sticks thanks to microSD card slot. That is, you can store enough data including music, software items and video in external clips.

The 3mm Touch Cover can be connected to your Surface tablet with a single magnetic click, so, now you can type text and send messages quite easily.

The Surface's tablet housing features a revolutionary kickstand. Along with fully functioning keyboard and track-pad, the integrated kickstand helps you place the gadget in both portrait or landscape modes.

According to Bloomberg, Surface will only be able to go online using a short-range Wi-Fi connection. This is a stark contrast to Apple's iPad 3, which has a 3G option, and a faster LTE connection.

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