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The next generation of Microsoft Surface is now available for pre-order from Samsung Electronics, as the companies move closer to shipping what amounts to a huge upgrade of Microsoft’s vision for tabletop computing.

Known officially as the Samsung SUR40, the Surface 2.0 machine doesn’t require the bulky podium that housed its predecessor’s vision and display technologies. The new version, with a 40-inch screen, uses sensors in the LCD display (known as PixelSense) to recognize fingers, hands and other objects placed on the screen.

Because of the new approach, the Surface can be used vertically or rested on legs like a table.

It’s geared for business and commercial uses. The estimated street price in the U.S. is $8,400 — about $800 more than previously expected — although the pricing is expected to vary by country and a Microsoft representative says prospective buyers need to talk with a Samsung representative in their region for a detailed quote.

Microsoft’s news release says companies including Dassault Aviation, Fujifilm and Royal Bank of Canada plan to deploy the SUR40 in early 2012.

A final release date hasn’t been set, but Microsoft says final product testing will be followed by mass production, with availability slated for six to eight weeks after that.

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