Microsoft shows off Windows 7 touch-screen features

Microsoft highlighted new multi-touch features on the range of new PCs as it launched Windows 7 in New York on Thursday.

Here’s a clip of a photo managing program, which allows you to sort through snaps and manipulate them manually, and a shot of the new Kindle application from Amazon, which lets people read a book onscreen, if that’s what they want to do.

The Windows 7 launch event was quieter than previous versions, focusing on slick new hardware and consumer-oriented features such as watching TV on the PC, creating home networks, making videos and playing music.

Early reviews of Windows 7 have been positive, but it will be a few months before it becomes clear if consumers really take to the new operating system.

AMD’s ATI breaks 1Ghz barrier — for real?

In the highly demanding (and some say shrinking) world of PC gaming, only two graphics powers really count: reigning popular champ Nvidia and AMD’s ATI division. Now it looks like ATI’s Radeon may have got a bit of a lead on its arch-foe.

ATI, once considered a perennial also-ran to Nvidia’s cutting-edge graphics chips, has become the first to crack what it called the 1 Gigahertz barrier on standard air-cooling. Pounding its chest, the company trumpeted on Wednesday the milestone and talked about “amazing gaming experiences” for the likes of Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. and Electronic Arts’ Battleforge.

It would be interesting to see how Nvidia — whose logo still appears more often alongside cutting-edge games such as medieval third-person actioner Assassin’s Creed to blockbuster first-person shooter Crysis — will respond in their never-ending arms race.

Not rich enough to be a Mac person

Microsoft — ruffled by constant ridicule by Apple — launched its latest counter-punch last night with an explicit jab at its cool but expensive archrival in a prime-time ad featuring one thrifty young woman’s quest to find a 17-inch laptop for under four figures.

“Lauren”, a feisty, red-haired computer-shopper, is given $1,000 to score a laptop with a 17-inch screen, and told she can keep the change.

First stop: the Apple store. Cue disappointment. The cheapest Macbook laptop, with a 13-inch screen, is $999. Lauren consoles herself that she is “not cool enough to be a Mac person” anyway.

Apple’s Mac rises again. Why?

Economy, schmeconomy.

In the midst of the worst U.S. recession in 27 years, Apple — ever the trailblazer — unveiled a new line of its aesthetically pleasing and — quite frankly — financially-straitening Mac desktop computers, canvassing the entire market spectrum starting from Mac Minis at under $600 to an all-singing, all-dancing, 8-core space-shuttle-launch-capable Mac Pro for a cool $3,299.

At first glance, it would seem Apple’s caved in to pressure and finally lowered prices on its flagship computers: the company says its new top-of-the-line Mac Pro comes $300 cheaper than predecessors, while still boasting cutting-edge performance with two of Intel’s quad-core Xeon processors and 6 GB of memory upgradeable to 32 GB. Apple’s reluctance to sacrifice margins — because it makes it that much harder to rebound once the economy does — has been legendary.

But for perspective — that sort of money can get you Dell’s latest, next-to-most-powerful gaming engine — albeit sans display — a high-performance, fully tricked-out machine capable of running Crysis with all video options maxed out and still find time to pick up the groceries on the side. (Specifications:

Is PC the new black? Ask Microsoft

im-a-pc.jpgLook out nerdy-cool Apple guy, the empire is striking back. And it’s got Eva Longoria Parker, Tony Parker, Pharrell Williams and Deepak Chopra on its side.

Microsoft is launching (another) new commercial campaign Thursday night. It takes aim at Apple’s “Mac vs. PC” campaign that has portrayed personal computers running Windows as clunky and uncool.

The commercial starts with a real-life Windows engineer who looks eerily similar to John Hodgman (the comedian who plays the role of “PC” in Apple’s commercials), saying “I’m a PC and I’ve been made into a stereotype.” After that is a montage of celebs and normal folk, saying “I’m a PC.”   Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, along with the aforementioned celebrities, makes an appearance in the ad.

From weird to weirder, Microsoft has Gates do the robot

The first Jerry Seinfeld/Bill Gates commercial that debuted last week got a reception about as warm as the one received by the product it was supposed to be promoting: Windows Vista. For those who missed the 2007 debut of Vista, the answer is not very.

Now there are two more commercials in the series and they are two more 90-second head-scratcher. The basic plot line: Bill and Jerry live with a family to get in touch with “real people.” High jinks ensue, leading to Gates doing the robot. The sequels are sure to draw as much criticism as the original, but they may also achieve their intended goal: get people talking about Microsoft again.

The ad campaign — created by agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky — is part of Microsoft’s $300 million effort to try to improve the image of Windows and hit back at Apple, which has effectively portrayed Windows as clunky and out-of-touch with its Mac vs. PC commercials.