Page last updated at 18:01 GMT, Wednesday, 21 October 2009 19:01 UK

Microsoft bets on Windows success

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Microsoft's Leila Martine unveils the new operating system's key features.

Windows 7 packages sold at a rate of three per minute during a special midnight opening of an electrical store to mark the launch.

More than 500 people queued outside PC World in central London to be the first to get a copy when the store opened at midnight on October 21.

The DSGi group, which includes Currys, Dixons and PC World, reported a huge surge in trade throughout the morning.

"Within an hour we were up 180% on sales," said a spokesperson.

The figure was set against a standard day of Vista sales.

DSGi's top selling upgrade was the home premium family pack, which contains licences for up to three users.

"The early signs are that customers appreciate the new operating system," added spokesperson Anina Castle. "The sales so far are above our expectations.

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The BBC's Jason Palmer investigates Windows 7's pros and cons

Speaking at the official launch of Windows 7 in London, Microsoft executives said they had listened to consumers and delivered a more streamlined, feature-packed system.

It follows widespread criticism of predecessor Vista.

Windows 7 faces stiff competition from rival operating systems and new ways of storing applications.

Microsoft is hoping Windows 7 will reinvigorate its plans to be at the centre of the home with features that make it easy to connect to other machines in the house and stream movies and music to them.

In the UK, the software giant will tie up with Sky to offer its on-demand Sky Player service.

It will allow consumers to watch a range of live and on-demand TV programmes via the Windows Media Center, which is included in most editions of Windows 7.

New dawn

Ashley Highfield, Microsoft UK's Managing Director and Vice President for consumer and online, said Windows 7 marked a "new dawn in Microsoft's relationship with the consumer".

"Windows 7 is much more than a collection of new features. We have listened to what consumers want and they want something that makes their lives easier," said Mr Highfield.

The operating system has already been in beta testing among eight million official users, and a farther seven million unofficial testers have also used it.

Desktop image from Windows 7

The software giant used one billion data sessions to find out how people navigate with Windows; information such as how many times people visit the start menu - around 12 times per session - and how many windows they have open at any one time - between two and seven is the average.

Microsoft has introduced a range of new features, some of which will already be familiar to users of the Mac operating system.

We have listened to what consumers want and they want something that makes their lives easier
Ashley Highfield, Microsoft UK

Often-used applications can be dragged into the taskbar and users can view a thumbnail shot of all the windows they have open.

Microsoft has acknowledged that the Windows pop-ups that interrupt users are "rude". With Windows 7 users can customise how and when they view such pop-ups.

There is also a feature that allows users to "snap" two windows together to make reading and comparing easier and a facility that allows all open windows to be minimised at the shake of a mouse.

The software giant has decreased the amount of time the system takes to boot up and has improved battery life and reduced memory - an acknowledgment that many people will want to use Windows on laptops rather than desktops.

For Internet Explorer 8, which is installed in the new operating system, there are improved security features including Smart Screen Filtering, which intercepts suspicious downloads and warns users that they are unsafe.

There are also offered improved services in add-ons such as Windows Live Photo Gallery and Movie Maker.

Cloud computing

Clouds
Has cloud computing made operating systems irrelevant?

Windows still runs on 90% of the world's computers but it is a internet-dominated landscape that Windows 7 enters.

It has led commentators to suggest that Windows is becoming an irrelevance.

More and more applications are being written for so-called cloud computing - which supports popular apps such as web-based email and social networks in data centres rather than on individual computers.

It is an area Microsoft is keen to exploit and last year it unveiled its own cloud computing service called Azure, dubbed "Windows for the cloud".

Windows also faces stiff competition from free operating systems, such as the Linux-based Ubuntu system which launches its newest version next week and arch-rival Google's Chrome OS.

Windows 7's planning is 'better than Vista' says Microsoft executive

Many though remain loyal to the Microsoft universe and for those wishing to upgrade from Vista, the software giant has promised a "seamless" experience.

It acknowledged that upgrades from older operating systems might be "more difficult."

"XP has been on the market for ten years so we recommend that people wait until they are ready to purchase a new PC or do a clean install," said Julie Larson-Green, Microsoft's vice president of user experience.

Some experts cautioned against rushing out and buying it.

John Bogue, from Which? Computing, said: "Software bugs are par the course for newly released programs, and operating systems are no exception. Unless you like downloading patches and updates, we recommend waiting a year."

The home edition of Windows 7 is available in the UK for £79.99 until 1 January. After that it will cost £99.99.



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