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Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Microsoft to Debut Vista Operating System for Business

Microsoft will announce availability of business versions of its long-awaited Vista operating system on Thursday, according to analysts invited to a release event in New York City.

The final version of Microsoft's Office 2007 business applications software was to be available along with Vista.

"This is a business launch," said Gartner Research vice president Michael Silver. "Consumers will need to wait a little while."

Vista would be available worldwide in PCs on January 30, 2007, according to Microsoft co-president of platforms Jim Allchin.

Allchin declared Vista "rock solid" earlier this month when the Redmond, Washington, company began shipping software to computer programmers and manufacturers so they could tailor their wares to the systems.

Vista features that promised to be of particular interest to businesses included BitLocker, which encrypts data stored on computer hard drives, according to analyst Michael Cherry of Directions on Microsoft.

"If the drive is lost or stolen, you've lost your hardware but no one can read the data," Cherry said of BitLocker, which was in Vista for enterprise servers and the premium Vista version for PCs.

"Those embarrassing stories we read in the news should be reduced."

Cherry expected businesses to also be enticed by a feature requiring users to have administrative access to install new software.

"That should severely restrict the damage that malicious software can do," Cherry said. "The really weird thing is that Microsoft always had the architecture to support it but had never done it."

It was unlikely businesses would rush to install new operating systems, analysts said.

"Bringing in a new operating system is not a trivial matter that people take lightly," said Silver, who expected businesses to cautiously shift to Vista during the course of a year or more.

Microsoft should avoid calling attention to the fact that PC versions of Vista won't be released until after the holiday gift-buying season, according to analysts.

"Microsoft needs to be careful here," Silver said. "They don't want people to be too interested in Vista if stores are still selling Windows XP on computers."

Microsoft has been criticized and its stock bruised for delaying the release of Vista several times to further refine the system.

The delays were believed to have hurt holiday-season PC sales because shoppers would be averse to buying computers with operating systems that were soon to be obsolete.

Microsoft tried to mitigate damage to holiday sales by offering buyers coupons for free or low-cost upgrades from Windows XP to the new Vista system.

A drawback to that strategy is that it requires computer buyers to install new operating systems themselves.

"That is not something users want to do," Silver said. "Getting the operating system pre-loaded is the preference."

Vista was more secure from hackers, performed more reliably, was more energy efficient, and worked with more devices and applications than the Windows XP operating system it was replacing, Allchin said.

"At some point, they just needed to ship this thing," Cherry told AFP. "This late in the year, I'm not sure a lot of businesses are going to be doing anything with it."

The changes to the operating system were evolutionary instead of revolutionary so users wouldn't need to buy new hardware to use it, according to Cherry.

"It's worth upgrading, but I don't believe everyone is going to run out and buy the new system," Cherry said. "If you think it is time for a new computer you should really consider having that machine run Vista."

"And if you are currently running anything older than Windows XP Two, you should upgrade."

Testing of Vista included letting an army of outside computer security specialists attack it at will, according to Microsoft. A common lament among Windows users has been vulnerabilities exploited by hackers.

It has been five years since Microsoft introduced the Windows XP system that Vista will replace. Windows software is used by approximately 90 percent of the world's computers with 70 percent of the machines running on Windows XP.

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