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Microsoft's new wunderkind has made its long-awaited appearance. Bill Gates unveiled his company's new Vista operating system in a three-hour performance worthy of Apple's Steve Jobs. Five years and millions of dollars worth of development have finally come to fruition. The question is: how will it be received by an audience already made skeptical by a mixed bag of early reviews...?


Needless to say, the techno geeks, bloggers and business press are all over this story. For a bird's-eye view of the new operating system, and a balanced review, I checked out senior editor Peter Lewis's article in Fortune Magazine. He actually tested the software for a couple of months, so I think he probably has some legit, first-hand observations of merit for the rest of us.
In a nutshell, this is what I've gleaned about the superiority of Vista over the Windows XP operating system:
Positives:
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Upgraded security features
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More reliable
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Better user interface
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Better network support
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More compatibility with older programs
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Improved search or navigation abilities
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Nifty new features: a desktop that enables users to see animated images, live icons instead of static ones, and improved versions of Windows Media Player and Windows Movie Maker, as well as new applications like Windows Photo Gallery and Windows DVD Maker.
Negatives:
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User needs a Vista-compatible PC and many PCs don't have the "horsepower" to run this software.
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For the user with Vista-compatible PC, the Vista upgrade is apparently "vexing."
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There are several versions of Vista software; only the more expensive versions have all the bells and whistles that Microsoft is touting. Cost: $100-$269+ depending on the version purchased.
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The best way to upgrade, apparently, provided your PC is up to it, is to start from Square 1: backing up your hard drive, wiping it clean and installing the new Vista is no simple task.
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Cost: major operating systems upgrades are fraught with high costs, delays and hassles for IT managers who may have hundreds, even thousands of PC users within companies. Few companies will take this on all at once. Most will probably upgrade as they replace aging PCs since it's much more cost effective.
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Like any new operating system, Microsoft will have to debug it and fix the problems that will inevitably crop up. This could take a few months; making it likely many of us will wait this out for a few months. Why rush now and buy until the trouble-shooting and problem-solving phase is over?
Another potential negative: the very name Vista may present a problem for Microsoft. Vista is a Redmond, Washington-based business software and services company founded in 1999 by John Wall. Mr. Wall indicated to the press that he was not too pleased by Microsoft's choice of name for its new operating system. And there are many other, influential naysayers about Vista, when it comes to performance issues.
Still, with a 90% share of the software market, billions of PC users around the world will no doubt be transitioning from Windows XP to Vista, probably as they purchase new PCs to replace aging ones. It's just a matter of time.
It will also be interesting to see whether the new Vista will make any inroads in developing countries, where Linux has been the solid choice among consumers. While cheaper, Linux is purportedly more difficult to use. Will Microsoft pick up any of the market share in these parts of the world? It's difficult to say.
Of more interest from my perspective:
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How will Microsoft respond to its challenges to perfect its new Vista operating system?
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What is on the horizon for Microsoft; how does the company plan to address the ever-quickening pace of tech development around the world with new products in future?
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What kind of company will Microsoft be when Bill Gates steps down as CEO in June 2008 to be replaced by Ray Ozzie, current Microsoft Chief Technology Officer? Even though Gates plans on staying on in some kind of part-time, advisory capacity; will Microsoft become more daring in its new product development, or ever-more cautious?
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With the pace being set by other tech companies, can Microsoft continue to afford to be slow or cautious?
Stay tuned. . .

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ted Mininni is president of Design Force, Inc. (www.designforceinc.com), a leading brand-design consultancy to consumer product companies (phone: 856-810-2277). Ted is also a regular contributor to the MarketingProfs blog, the Daily Fix.