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Microsoft's Surface RT tablet to hit shelves in Taiwan late this month

TAIPEI--U.S. software giant Microsoft Corp.'s tablet computer will soon be available in Taiwan, and is expected to heat up the competitive and fast-growing tablet market.

The Surface RT, which uses the Windows RT operating system, will go on sale in late March in Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore and Taiwan, Microsoft announced in a Feb. 28 statement on its website, without specifying its pricing.

Also, the Windows 8-powered Surface Pro will hit stores in Australia, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, New Zealand and the United Kingdom in the coming months, the company said.

“We are eager to see people and businesses in more countries get a chance to experience this new category of devices,” said Panos Panay, corporate vice president of Microsoft Surface.

Windows 8 is designed for devices using processors from Microsoft's long-time partner Intel Corp., while Windows RT is designed for models using low-power chips licensed by British chip designer ARM Holding PLC.

Microsoft announced on Oct. 16, 2012 that the price of its 10.6-inch Surface RT would start at US$499 for a 32GB version in select countries, which is similar to the entry price of Apple Inc.'s new iPad with a 16GB storage capacity.

It remains to be seen by analysts whether tablet PCs using the Windows operating system will steal a meaningful share from Apple, which has dominated the tablet market.

According to research firm Gartner Inc., shipments of Apple's iPad reached 76.2 million units in 2012, accounting for 58 percent of the global market.

Tablets running Google Inc.'s Android operating system ranked second with 52.3 million units and a 40-percent share, while Windows tablets took only a 1.8-percent share of the market, Gartner said.

The worldwide tablet market is forecast to grow to 193.5 million units in 2013, up 47 percent from 131.4 million units last year, the research firm reported.

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