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Microsoft Unveils New Desktop Software, For Business Clients

By Steve Lohr
THE NEW YORK TIMES


NEW YORK

Microsoft on Thursday rolled out new versions of its dominant desktop programs, Windows and Office, beginning a series of new offerings that the company will introduce over the next year to combat a rising challenge from Internet-based software.

The products, led by Windows Vista and Office 2007, are being made available immediately to business customers, but they will not arrive in the consumer market until after the holiday shopping season, on Jan. 30. Vista has suffered repeated delays, coming five years after the previous version of the Windows operating system, a lengthy gap Microsoft has vowed will not happen again.

At a marketing event for businesses held in New York, Microsoft emphasized not only its desktop products, but also how they will work with its server software to increase productivity by making it easier for workers to collaborate in online teams, retrieve and reply to e-mail messages by phone using voice-recognition software, and easily search for information inside their laptop or across their corporation.

“This is by far the biggest wave of products we’ve ever introduced,” said Steven A. Ballmer, chief executive of Microsoft.

Some customers have been working with early, or beta, copies of Windows Vista and Office 2007, for several months now. A few of them appeared with Ballmer on Thursday to discuss the advantages of the new products — like improved 3-D graphics and better security in Vista, and collaboration capabilities in Office.

PC makers, software developers and others who rely on Microsoft’s Windows technology were disappointed by the delay past the holiday season in the consumer market, and their sales will most likely suffer this year.

Yet the next Windows and Office cycle of buying is now on the horizon, and they are positioning themselves for advantage. Dell, for example, has stumbled over the last year. But it is strongest in the corporate market and it hopes to benefit from helping business customers make the transition to Windows Vista and Office 2007 relatively quickly and inexpensively. “This should work to Dell’s advantage,” said Brad Anderson, a Dell senior vice president.

In its new products, Microsoft is acknowledging the importance to customers of Internet-based software — a technology direction symbolized by Google, which in addition to search is also offering other services, including Web-based document processing.