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Christof Stache  /  AP
A salesman works behind new Windows 7 software in a store in Rosenheim, southern Germany. Microsoft Corp. put a new edition of Windows on sale Thursday, hoping for a fresh start after a bad reception for the previous version of the software that runs most of the world's personal computers.
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updated 10/22/2009 9:24:28 AM ET 2009-10-22T13:24:28

Microsoft Corp. put a new edition of Windows on sale Thursday, hoping for a fresh start after a bad reception for the previous version of the software that runs most of the world's personal computers.

Windows 7 is now available on new computers, and as a software upgrade for some older PCs.

(Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)

A Fry's Electronics store in Renton, Wash., several miles south of Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, opened at midnight to give customers an early shot at buying a new PC or a disc that they could use to put Windows 7 on their existing computers. Such upgrade discs start at $120.

"We're geeks, that's what geeks do. This is our excitement," said Mike Naramor, 55, who runs a consulting business called My Computer Guy and was one of about 50 people who were waiting outside the store when it opened.

Naramor said that he also had bought copies of the last two operating systems, XP and Vista, the nights they were released and that he planned to go home and install Windows 7 right away.

"Vista took me about 72 hours," he said. "I expect this to take me 20 minutes."

Indeed, Microsoft hopes people like Windows 7 more than its most recent predecessor, Vista, which was slow and didn't work well with existing programs and devices. Microsoft fixed many of Vista's flaws, but it was too late to repair the system's reputation.

Windows 7 promises to boot up faster and reduce the clicks needed to get common tasks done. Microsoft has added features to help people keep track of open windows, cut out some redundant ways to start up programs and added flourishes that can help users keep track of all their open windows. It promises to put computers into sleep mode and wake them faster, too.

Windows 7 is also meant to be "quieter" — with fewer pop-up boxes, notifications, warnings and "are you sure ..." messages. Instead, many of those messages get stashed in a single place for the user to address when it's convenient.

To coincide with the Windows 7 launch, computer makers and retailers such as Best Buy Inc. are cutting prices for PCs to try to goose holiday-season sales. Microsoft also is beginning to try running its own retail stores, which has been enormously successful for Apple Inc. The first Microsoft store was set to open Thursday in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Analysts at Gartner Inc. aren't expecting the arrival of Windows 7 to cause a spike in consumer PC sales, which means prices for new machines figure to stay low. Last year was the worst in about six years for the PC industry, and global computer shipments declined through the first half of this year.

The recession has also led businesses to delay spending on PCs and other technologies. Because of those tight budgets and the lack of enthusiasm for Vista, more than 80 percent of new computers installed in offices still run Windows XP, which is now 8 years old, according to Forrester Research. A year from now, Forrester expects most new business PCs to be using Windows 7, but that won't necessarily translate into a huge boost for the PC industry.

In a recent interview, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer acknowledged that information-technology budgets "aren't going to rise just because we shipped a new (operating system)."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Microsoft CEO unveils new operating system

  1. Closed captioning of: Microsoft CEO unveils new operating system

    >>> we're back now at 7:43. and now to what's considered the most important release from microsoft in more than a decade. this morning the software giant launches its newest operation system . it's called windows 7 . and here to unveil it to the world is microsoft ceo steve ballmer . steve , good morning. nice to see you.

    >> good to be here. thanks, matt.

    >> nine out of ten people use an operating system like this to run their computer, but a lot of people don't know the difference between an operating system and an operating room , so let's keep this simple.

    >> yes, sir.

    >> so, why is this different? why is this important?

    >> you have over the world hundreds of millions of people over the year buying pcs . we just wanted to make them simpler, faster, more responsive.

    >> as compared to vista, which was not the rave success it might have been. you weren't all that happy with it. some users weren't happy with it. they said it's clunky. what's the biggest difference between vista and windows 7 ?

    >> well, i think the number one thing -- vista, hundreds of millions of users, most of them very, very happy, but people will turn this on, they'll see that it boots faster, immediately up and running, better battery life on the laptops. the user interface , clean, simpler, snappy. people like that stuff.

    >> when you say snappier -- let's bring in charlotte jones , who is a group product manager for microsoft . snappy. show me the bells and whistles.

    >> sure.

    >> what are people going to be talking about when they learn about this today?

    >> first of all, you can get windows 7 on a variety of pcs , from these netbooks all the way up to this high-end gaming pc , and it's coming out on new pcs all the time. let me show you this brand new one. you have to be careful to not accidentally recycle this puppy.

    >> that is very thin.

    >> available today.

    >> very light, too, matt.

    >> amazingly light. the way people use computers today is different than five years ago, ten years ago. how's this going to help with that?

    >> this is a touch pc. and windows 7 is enabled with touch already, so these programs will work great right out of the box. i've got some photos here. my photo collage. i can use touch to change it around.

    >> what was the movie " minority report "?

    >> " minority report ," exactly.

    >> then i can save this and it's my personalized desktop.

    >> in other words, people are concerned now with movies, photos, music.

    >> right.

    >> this system makes it easier to handle those things?

    >> oh, absolutely.

    >> absolutely. you have a computer, you want to play, remote speakers in the house. computer can be the center of your media life.

    >> people are -- you know, it used to be, seemed to me -- correct me if i'm wrong, because you're the expert -- that it was the business users that drove the market. has that completely shifted now? is it all about the consumers?

    >> things started out on the consumers side when the pc was launched, and then business kind of took over, but consumers will buy 65% of the pcs in the world this year, and we've got to make them fun.

    >> and for personal use, what you're finding more and more of, steve , is that people want portable. you know, they aren't spending as much time, and you know this, sitting in front of a pc or a desktop. they're on the go. portability, is that the entire wave of the future?

    >> portability from the very smallest. but hey, maybe you want to put one in the kitchen. we've got that for you. you want to put one next to your television set so you can get the internet on your tv or the very small ones.

    >> but sticking on that subject -- and i'm going to bring up some names here you don't want to talk about all that much, all right?

    >> that's all right.

    >> are you worried that the day is coming here, and it's not too far in the future, that people are going to not need the windows system because they're going to get all their computing needs handled on an iphone with all those applications?

    >> i think when it comes time, people need and like big screens. for watching television, people like bigger screens, for reading, for writing. so, there's going to be a mix. people are going to have intelligence in their pc and in their phone, also important, and in their tv.

    >> wait when i looked at what charlotte just did here with the touch screen and she moved things around, it's got the wow factor, it's got the technology. the fact of the matter is, though, when people talk about the company apple, they say it's a cool company, it's a cutting-edge company. you've got to compete with that as the ceo of microsoft .

    >> sure.

    >> are you envious about the image that they've created?

    >> i think apple's a fine company, but i'm real happy that in the united states , nine out of every ten people pick a windows pc , and with windows 7 , that will even be a more obvious choice.

    >> so, you can keep that percentage up moving into the future? you can keep it above nine out of ten, above 90%?

    >> you're not going to find this diversity of cool hardware for anybody else other than from our family of windows partners.

    >> i've got you here on an interesting day, steve . as a corporate ceo, there's a lot of talk in the news today about corporate pay, about salaries and bonuses, cracking down on some major companies. i just want your perspective on this as a ceo. is the clamping down and the capping of salaries for some of these companies, is it good business or is it bad for business?

    >> because of the government's involvement in the companies, i think you've just got to think about it as an anomaly, and then it's a question of government policy . in general, i think the market works pretty well, but these are companies where the market wasn't working, i guess, quite as well, and government did get involved.

    >> so, in other words, what you're saying is the government can have its say right now, but then down the road it's going to go back to the free marketplace and the government's got to step out?

    >> i'm not a policy maker --

    >> right.

    >> -- but i know that these are exceptional cases in exceptional times.

    >> exceptional day for you guys at microsoft as you launch windows 7 , and steve , it's nice for you to do it on the show. we appreciate it.

    >> pleasure to be here. thanks, matt.

    >> all right.

    >> appreciate it.

    >> by the way, microsoft is part owner of msnbc.com. important to get that out.

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