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Microsoft Launches Vista and Office 2007

It’s a day that’s been many years in the making, but at midnight Microsoft will finally begin offering its new Windows Vista operating system and Office 2007 application suite to consumers and everyday computer users. The Redmond software giant has assembled a massive marketing blitz aimed at putting the word “Vista” on the lips of computer users worldwide, including a plethora of media appearances by Microsoft honchos Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer and campaigns designed to drive awareness of the new releases.

Windows Vista is, of couse, the first major upgrade to the company’s flagship Windows operating system since Microsoft released Windows XP in 2001. Although it was released to businesses and Microsoft’s channel partners in November (and Windows users with plenty of time, bandwidth, and curiosity has been able to download betas and test drives for some time), tomorrow marks the first time the operating system will be available for general retail purchase. Some retailers (including some outlets of Best Buy and Comp USA) will be opening stores early to let enthusiasts set hands on the operating system at the stroke of midnight.

Editions of Windows Vista include Home Basic, Home Premium, Business, Enterprise, and Vista Ultimate, with a special Vista Starter edition available in emerging markets. Suggested retail prices for new licenses range from $199 for Home Basic to $399 for new licenses of Windows Vista Ultimate; upgrade pricing from qualified previous versions of Windows starts at $99 for Home Basic and ranges to $260 for Vista Ultimate (Some retailers will offer somewhat lower prices.) Expect Microsoft to emphasize features available only in the Home Premium and Ultimate editions of Windows Vista.

Vista’s success is virtually assured—after all, Microsoft holds the dominant position in the personal computer operating system market—but it remains to be seen whether under-the-hood improvements to the operating system’s architecture will truly offer computer users exciting new capabilities and better security, or if the operating system amounts to “more of the same” and a driver to upgrade hardware to support memory and processing requirements. Recent research from Gartner estimates businesses and enterprise customers will sit and watch Vista for a while, taking a cautious approach on migrating users towards a new operating system: Gartner predicts that about half the world’s consumer PCs will be running Vista by the end of 2008, but it won’t run the majority of business systems until the year 2010.

But if you’ve just gotta get your hands on Windows Vista Ultimate to, say, push your digital media around your home and tilt your windows into 3D views…you can go legal at midnight.

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