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Vista launches to muted applause

MS says the 'Wow' starts now - audience says ssshhh...

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Vista has been delayed so many times that the audience didn't seem surprised that the start time slipped back by twenty minutes. About two hundred journalists and Microsoft partners gathered at the British Library conference centre for the launch event this morning.

Bill Gates finally arrived on stage looking surprisingly dapper in a dark pinstripe suit and burgundy spotted tie - maybe the delay was down to him getting fitted for the suit which didn't look like it came from a catalogue.

He told us a lot had changed since 1995 when Microsoft last introduced a new operating system and suite of applications at the same time. Then the big change was long file names, more than eight letters, and PCs were mainly used for printing and some email.

Gates compared this with Vista with its support for music, games, telecoms and television and other video content. He said avoidance of phishing and malware was increasingly important.

He said a big change was in parental controls. This means Gates can control exactly how many hours, and which hours, in a day his son can use his PC and which applications and websites he can access. For his daughter, we heard, he is more flexible but can still look back at the log files to see what she has been up to. [So Gates' kids can't outfox him when it comes to computers? Maybe these things skip a generation]

He said the launch of Office 2007 was a major release and an embracing of the XML standard. He said it would redefine collaboration through the use of SharePoint, that "the ribbon interface would give more power to people to create 21st Century documents."

Gates thanked the people who worked directly on the products as well as the 5 million beta testers. He said family use of computers was increasingly important and so Microsoft had watched 50 families in seven countries to see how they used their PCs. He claimed 800 changes were made as a result of this.

Gates said the real strength of Windows was the ecosystem around it and claimed Windows has ten times more applications than any other platform. He pointed to the "gadgets" including one which will allow quick access to betting services which Microsoft will not be able to use in the US. Gadgets look suspiciously similar to widgets - essentially mini-apps, or rather mini-browsers, which sit on one side of the screen and give you access to information from specified Microsoft partners like ITN, easyjet or betfair.

Finally he thanked the British Library for hosting the event.®

If you want to know what Vista and Office 2007 actually do, have a look back at our coverage of the first launch of the products, back in November.

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