Vista makes debut amid much hype
Microsoft calls Vista its biggest launch ever.
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
At long last, Windows Vista, the first new operating system from Microsoft Corp. in five years, arrives on store shelves and in new computers today.
Vista comes with high expectations and generally positive reviews. Microsoft boasts that it has managed to tighten security, increase parental controls, make media easier to use and share, and linked everything even more tightly to the Internet.
Concurrent with Vista is a revamp of Microsoft's other signature product, Microsoft Office, the set of software that includes Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint. Office gets a radical overhaul as well, and many people will need hours of training to get used to the upgraded software in Office 2007.
The two products represent "the biggest launch we've had in the history of the company," said Justin Hutchinson, group product manager for Microsoft's Windows Vista team.
Hutchinson positively gushes over many of the system's features. Key features include:
Security: "Vista is safer and more secure," he said. "It is the safest and most secure version of Windows we've shipped."
Search: "It's just easier to find stuff" on Vista, he said. Instead of hunting through folders, "I no longer open that stuff up. I type in a search term and Vista searches across files and applications."
Parental controls: "I can control how often my kid uses the PC. If I choose to, I can monitor where he goes and what he does. I can set hours where he can log on and where he can't log on. I can tell him to visit only certain Web sites."
Gaming: Vista will feature improved graphics that will make PC gaming comparable to console games, and for the first time, PC gamers will be able to compete against console players in the same game when they're using Microsoft's new Xbox 360.
Media: With Vista, Microsoft recognizes that people want to move photos, music and video files from their PC to other devices, including televisions and home entertainment systems. "We just make it easier to do all the big things people want to do in their home," Hutchinson said.
In addition, with a new feature called Windows Aero, Vista puts a more beautiful face on computing. Users can put "gadgets" like photos, a clock or news feeds right on their desktop and can easily navigate between programs.
Now or later?
Experts are now debating how soon consumers should buy Vista, with some saying it's a marked improvement and ready to go, while others advise waiting. Still others advise skipping it altogether and going with a computer from rival Apple Inc. instead.
Consensus has emerged, however, that people who do buy it will be better off getting it pre-installed on a new PC rather than trying to upgrade a Windows XP machine. Installing a new operating system can be a major headache.
"If you do it on an existing PC, you have to be careful," said Michael Silver, vice president of research at market research firm Gartner Inc. "Will all of your applications run? Will all of your devices work? Do you have enough horsepower to run Vista and get the benefit of the new user interface?"
Vista's most basic upgrade will sell for 99.95, although the home premium version will sell as an upgrade for 159. The two versions, when sold with new PCs, will go for 199 and 239, respectively, and business versions start at 199 for an upgrade and go up to 399 for the "ultimate" edition.