Software giant Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) today officially launched Windows 7, the hotly anticipated follow-up to Windows Vista that’s seen by many observers as a critical opportunity for reinvigorated sales across the industry.
While Vista sold hundreds of millions of copies in the months and years after its January 2007 debut, it still failed to find the same kind of traction in IT shops enjoyed by Windows XP. As of March, XP still had a home on more than three-quarters of business PCs, according to findings from Forrester Research.
Windows 7 now stands as Microsoft’s chance to correct its acknowledged past missteps. Vista, while an aesthetic improvement over XP, quickly earned a reputation for being sluggish, resource-intensive and initially incompatible with a large array of existing software and hardware, among other criticisms.
Microsoft’s newest OS, however, is designed to be lighter and faster. And with a high degree of compatibility with Vista software and hardware, it’s meant to avoid the problems of application and driver compatibility that plagued early Vista users.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, Windows 7 began winning fans among industry watchers early in its development cycle.
Microsoft has also been pitching Windows 7 as a way for corporate IT to save money, with a lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) than earlier versions of Windows.
Windows 7 is also priced similarly or cheaper in some cases than the previous OS: Upgrades from XP or Vista versions will run users from $119.99 for the Home edition to $219.99 for the Ultimate edition, while the full package runs from $199.99 to $319.99.
It’s more than just Microsoft hoping for a big payoff from Windows 7, however. The launch is seen by many as being a driver of hardware upgrades at a time when the industry desperately needs buying to pick back up.
Fortunately for industry stakeholders, reports continue circulating that Windows 7 will, indeed, lead to an asset refresh among corporate buyers and new sales among consumers — a message that enterprise hardware vendors have been repeating for months. Recent weeks have seen the introduction of a slew of new hardware designed to take advantage of the drive to upgrade.
Now, all that remains is to see how accurate all those predictions have been.
Microsoft plans to formally inaugurate Windows 7 with a launch party later today in New York, hosted by CEO Steve Ballmer. The event will be
available via Webcast beginning at 8 a.m. Pacific or 11 a.m. Eastern.