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Vista Sets Sail Alongside New Office, Exchange

Calling it the biggest launch in the company's history, Microsoft on Thursday formally launched the business versions of its long-awaited Vista operating system and Office 2007 desktop applications suite at the Nasdaq market site in New York.

The introduction of the two new versions kicks off what Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said will be followed by as many as 30 new products aimed at business users over the course of 2007, a complete list of which can be seen here.

"Let me jut say it is an honor and privilege to be here or I probably should say an honor and privilege to finally be here today to introduce these products," Ballmer said, making reference to the many delays that have haunted the delivery of Vista over the past two or three years. "This is certainly the biggest launch in our company’s history."

Ballmer said the new versions of Windows and Office, along with the formal introduction of Exchange Server 2007, was the result of "unprecedented" collaboration between Microsoft and its users both large and small and in between. He said more than 5 million beta testers put the products through their paces.

"I really see these products as game changers. We fully expect more than 200 million people will be using at least one of these products by the middle of next year," Ballmer said.

Working in concert, Microsoft will position the three products as a business platform unto itself that will help users to more effectively carry out a variety of collaboration and communications strategies.

Ballmer declined to specifically say how much money Microsoft would spend on promoting both the business and consumer versions of Vista and Office 2007, only saying they would be the most widely marketed products in the company’s history, and the company would spend in the "hundreds of millions of dollars" over the next year or two.

Ballmer confirmed that Microsoft still plans to launch the consumer version of Vista on time on Jan. 30. He said the company would offer more specifics on what its marketing plans and ambitions were for both the business and consumer versions at that time.

The new versions of Office, Vista, Exchange and the 30 products to follow will work in concert to focus on four key goals: making it simpler for people to work together, to find widely dispersed information and improve business insight, to do a better job at protecting and managing content, and to increase security and reducing overall IT costs.

"When we were developing these products we started with a world view of what is going on in business in general," Ballmer said. "We had to think about what was our motivation for helping users get done what they need to get done in their every day work."

One of the critical goals for Microsoft to accomplish was ensure that each version makes users measurably more productive in both their personal and professional lives through the dozens of new features included in both.

"At the end of the day we realize this is how people will judge how successful will be with these products," Ballmer said.

About the Author

Ed Scannell is the editor of Redmond magazine.