, FEBRUARY 5, 2007
  (STAR) By Alma Buelva - Microsoft founder Bill Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer led the official twin announcements here of the company’s two most important software products – Windows Vista and Office 2007 – last Jan. 29 as other countries around the world also held their own festivities to mark the commercial releases of these much-awaited products.

The first consumer copy of Vista was sold in New Zealand where the very first celebration took place. In Japan, Ballmer reported brisk sales of Vista in the Akihabara district moments it was released there. Manila’s official public launch of Vista and Office 2007 took days after the main event in New York, which started with a human billboard riser and an evening presentation by Gates and Ballmer followed by live band performances.

Five years in the making and delayed several times, Vista promises to make digital lifestyle a reality with its built-in slew of entertainment applications in Windows Media Center and new mobility features that can be enjoyed in over 1.5 million Vista-ready devices today.

"Before digital lifestyle is just a gleam in our eyes. With Vista everything becomes the digital platform to do it with the way it gets everything (devices) integrated," Gates said.

Ballmer seconded him, saying, "The home of the future is geared toward entertainment wherein PC will be the smartest device at home featuring more storage and can be accessed using media center extenders… Vista will be the launching pad for such connected entertainment."

Vista had some five million beta testers, including over 50 families across the globe that signed up for the so-called Digital Home program to beta test the operating system in their homes for two years. Apparently their feedback was so helpful that one of the families joined Gates and Ballmer on stage to officially press the "Wow" button for last Thursday’s historic launch.

Wow is the all-encompassing word that Microsoft used to promote Vista, explaining how it’s the first word that usually comes out in users’ mouths when they first see and use the product. Ballmer is confident that the feeling of wonder, excitement and pleasure users have for Vista will help them, in the next three months, sell five times more copies than they did with Windows 95 and twice more than Windows XP.

The boisterous Ballmer believes Vista will be predominantly sold pre-installed on new machines.

"Historically, most people get their new OS in the new machines they buy although others also get software upgrades. But bulk of the units (Vista) will be from new computers, especially in the first 12 months as people would say now is the time to get better PCs. We have good upgrade plans for the corporate market, but the lion’s share of Vista sales will be from new hardware sales," said Ballmer.

Ballmer shared the stage with some of Microsoft’s most important hardware partners who he said could add more value for Vista users.

Kevin Rollins, president and CEO of Dell, said they see a pent-up demand and buildup of energy around Vista that could result in a 20 percent increase in Web traffic and online orders for Dell machines.

Sean Maloney, an executive vice president at Intel, emphasized how innovations around Vista and chip technologies have made the PC today even more important, calling it the "golden age" for PC.

Hisatsugu Nonaka, president and CEO of Toshiba Corp.’s PC business, told Ballmer that Toshiba recognizes the need to provide high-end hardware that they immediately made ready to ship a full suite of notebooks featuring Windows Vista.

Dr. Hector Ruiz, AMD chairman and CEO, also praised Microsoft, saying the industry is ready for the change that Vista would bring to the market, especially now that we are in the "visualization age of computing."

Lastly, Todd Bradley, executive vice president of HP’s Personal Systems Group, told Ballmer that the world’s first copy of Vista that was sold in New Zealand was actually installed in an HP machine. "Windows Vista is the next step to make PC more personal than ever," Bradley said.

Vista is available in different flavors: Windows Vista Home Basic, Windows Vista Home Premium, Windows Vista Ultimate, Windows Vista Business, and Windows Vista Enterprise. The Ultimate is the full product, the Home Premium is geared toward home desktops and mobile PCs, while the Home Basic is ideal for homes with basic computing needs. Windows Vista Business and Windows Vista Enterprise are for small businesses and large companies, respectively. Customers are advised to visit the Vista Upgrade Advisor website to determine the right Vista edition for their needs.

Ballmer, who was asked about cost considerations that users and companies would likely have with regards to moving up to Vista which has higher hardware requirements, said using new technologies like Vista is not always about price points. "If people and companies see value they will buy it. It’s all about capabilities that they want as opposed to sole focus on price," he added.

He also ended speculations that Windows Vista will be the last operating system from Microsoft.

"There are so many areas where we need innovations. There’s a long list of things that all of the companies here want to do. If you sit with engineers you will understand just how much technology needs to evolve from software, semiconductor to communication, among others," Ballmer said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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