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New tablets, Windows system, Wii are coming

NEW YORK -- As the holiday-shopping season approaches, Apple and Microsoft have scheduled major events this week to unveil new gadgets and software.

Apple is expected to unveil a smaller iPad at an event in San Jose, Calif., today. It comes just weeks after the launch of a new iPhone.

The Microsoft event Thursday will focus on Windows 8, a major update to its lucrative operating system. The new software will go on sale Friday, and PC manufacturers have a slew of desktops, laptops and tablet computers designed for it.

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

Apple iPad

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 and Google have made in-roads selling tablets with smaller, 7-inch screens and lower price tags.

While Apple isn't commenting, tech bloggers and analysts expect that an "iPad Mini" -- the name isn't confirmed -- will have a 7.85-inch screen. Estimates on prices vary, ranging from $249 to $299, with the Boy Genius Report blog on Monday predicting it will go for $329.

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 Fire goes for $199 and an 8.9-inch unit 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. The smaller HD model is already available, while the larger ones will be available Nov. 20.

Barnes and Noble is also updating 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). They will be out Nov. 1.

Google has an event in New York next week. All the company is saying is that it has to do with its Android operating system for mobile devices. Google started selling the Nexus 7 over the summer and could use the event to announce an update.

New Windows

Microsoft will release a new version of the Windows operating system Friday, one designed to work on both traditional computers and tablet devices.

Several PC manufacturers including Lenovo, Hewlett-Packard, Samsung Electronics and Dell already have announced details about new desktops, laptops and tablet computers.

Microsoft plans its own tablet computer, too. This is new territory for Microsoft, which typically leaves it to others to make devices. The Surface tablet will come in two versions, both with 10.6-inch screens, slightly larger than the iPad.

Playing games

Nintendo's new Wii U game machine will go on sale in the U.S. on Nov. 18. A basic, white model will cost $300. A deluxe black version, for another $50, comes with an extra game and more accessories.

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