It's official: Microsoft launches Vista

Software giant releases newest version of Windows operating system to business customers.

By Grace Wong, staff writer

NEW YORK ( -- Microsoft launched Windows Vista, the long-awaited update to the software giant's ubiquitous operating system, for business customers on Thursday.

The company also announced new versions of the company's Office software suite and Exchange Server messaging system.


"This is the biggest launch in our company's history," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said, adding that Vista and Office 2007 are the most significant releases for the company's flagship products.

The launch of Vista has been plagued by numerous delays, and consumers, unlike business customers, won't even be able to get their hands on a copy of the software until the end of January.

Despite the ill-timed launch, analysts expect the roll out of the first update to the Windows operating system in five years, along with the new version of Office, to drive Microsoft's revenue in 2007.

Shares of Microsoft (Charts) have climbed this year - the stock is up about 13 percent - in anticipation of its new products.

IT market research firm IDC expects Microsoft to ship some 90 million units of Vista next year. Consumers are expected to lead the uptake of the new system, while corporate users will probably wait longer to upgrade, IDC said.

Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft estimates more than 200 million people will be using at least one of its newly launched products by the end of next year.

The new line up is crucial for the world's biggest software company, which has been facing stiff competition from companies like Google (Charts), which has begun offering Web-based applications that rival traditional desktop software.

Microsoft has also been building up its entertainment division. Its new Zune portable music player aims to take a slice of the market dominated by Apple's (Charts) iPod while its Xbox 360 gaming console competes with new devices like Sony's (Charts) PlayStation 3.

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