After a number of delays, Microsoft has officially launched the newest version of Windows, called Vista. The new operating system, which Microsoft says will make computers more secure and easier to use, was introduced to the business community last week. But as VOA's Mil Arcega reports, Vista will not be available to consumer users until next year.
Vista is Microsoft's first new operating system in five years. And its official launch was reason enough for Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to ring the opening bell at the Nasdaq stock exchange. "We couldn't be more excited to be doing this launch, this introduction, of by far I would say, the largest wave of products we've ever kicked off and all anchored around the most significant release that maybe we've ever done and certainly we've done since 1995 of our two flagship products of Microsoft Windows, the Windows Vista release and Microsoft Office 2007."
Microsoft says Vista will make computers more secure, powerful and graphically dynamic, especially when combined with the new Office 2007 suite, which brings sweeping changes to familiar programs such as Word, Outlook and Powerpoint. But for now, Ballmer says it's only available for business users. "Today we are kicking off what we call the business launch of these products. They will be available to consumers the end of January. We'll come back and launch them for the consumer audience."
Microsoft says Vista will be priced about the same as the equivalent version of the older operating system, Windows XP, but will offer five different versions for home and business users. Prices range from $99 for the Basic Home upgrade to about $400 for the premium version, Vista Ultimate.
Business analyst Simon Yates says the success of the new operating system is critically important not just for Microsoft but also for the $200 billion personal computer industry. "If Microsoft doesn't have a good launch of Vista, and it doesn't come out of the gates flying [off the starting line], then there's a potential revenue impact there in the near term."
Microsoft expects more than 200 million people will be using at least one of the new products by the end of 2007. Yates add, "Eventually, everyone will roll over to the new operating system, you almost can't avoid it, but you know it will take five or six years to reach the same level of saturation today that XP has."
Right now, an estimated 800 million PC's, or 90 percent of the world's computers, run on Windows software.
Microsoft spent an estimated $7 billion to develop Vista. But software security problems delayed the product launch for more than two years.