Microsoft launches Windows 8 and Surface tablet

Microsoft tablet PC Surface is shown at the launch event of Windows 8 Credit: Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Microsoft today launched the new Windows 8 operating system and Surface tablet.

The company's new Surface tablet, which is aiming to challenge the iPad, goes on sale along with Windows 8 computers at midnight tonight.

Steven Sinofsky, head of Microsoft Windows, opened the launch event in New York.

He showed off a range of devices running Windows 8 from PC makers such as Lenovo and Acer, but devoted the second half of the presentation to the Surface tablet, the first computer Microsoft has made itself.

"One person called it historic, unique. It's starting at $499 for the 32 GB version and we think that's a pretty darn good price. It's twice the amount of storage as a competing tablet for the same price," said Sinofsky.

Panos Panay, the head of the Surface project, carried out a demonstration of the tablet's features, beaming video and music to other screens and showing a thin cover that doubles as a keyboard.