Microsoft unleashes Windows Vista, Office 2007 to consumers

New operating system and productivity suite aim to provide an intuitive user experience

More than five years after its predecessor Windows XP was born, Microsoft has unleashed what it sees as its biggest product launch since Windows 95 with the mass market release of the much-anticipated Windows Vista and the 2007 Office System.

Today's January 30 launch marks the availability of the new-generation products via traditional boxed packages and pre-installed on computers, and comes two months after they were made available to the business market.

Microsoft Australia's newly appointed Managing Director Tracey Fellows said Windows Vista is the most important release of Windows that Microsoft has ever delivered.

"Australian consumers will be among the first people in the world to experience the powerful innovations that have been delivered with Windows Vista and the 2007 Office system," Fellows said.

The Sydney launch event, held at the Museum of Contemporary Art, attracted some 250 press and business partners. The presentations included demonstrations of the new software which went smoothly with the exception of a jittery projector which often dimmed and even blanked-out a few times.

Windows Vista is now available in four versions - Home Basic ($385), Home Premium ($455), Ultimate ($751), and Business ($565). Windows XP users can take advantage of the upgrade to these versions for less with the Home Basic upgrade for $199. Academic pricing is also available.

During her presentation Fellows focused on the improved security of Windows Vista, saying the new family safety settings via the Parental Control Panel are the most advanced of any operating system.

Vista's security settings can be used to restrict content, downloads and Web sites.

Some significant new features of Vista include live previews, including video, of running applications, integrated search and security, and 3D navigation of applications on the desktop.

For the local consumer market, Vista also integrates three key Web services - Kodak Online Print Wizard, the Sanity online music store, and Bigpond Movies for movie downloads.

The 2007 Office System now features a new "ribbon" user interface replacing the traditional dropdown menu, and extends the live preview functionality so documents are updated in real-time. OneNote now ships as part of Office 2007, and native PDF exporting from applications is now also a feature.

Microsoft's global president of its platforms and services division, Kevin Johnson, said there were over five million beta testers of Windows Vista, including about 90,000 in Australia.

For the design of Office 2007, Johnson said data from some one billion hours of office use was used to provide feedback and feature requests.

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Rodney Gedda

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