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Wow! Vista Finally Here

Gates promises Vista will wow PC buyers.

(New York) "Wow" hasn't tended to be a big part of Bill Gates' vocabulary, but to hear him speak in the hours before Microsoft Corp.'s planned launch of the long-awaited Vista operating system with a slate of splashy events in New York, you'd never know it.

"This 'Wow' thing is a great way of describing what we've got here," Microsoft's chairman said in an interview Monday. "There are chances for wows all over the product."

More than five years in the making, Vista was released for business customers Nov. 30, but the new Windows operating system's unveiling for consumer buyers was scheduled for Tuesday. The Redmond, Wash.-based software maker contends that Vista is such a huge improvement over previous computing platforms that users inevitably say "Wow" when they see it -- and so the word plays a big role in the company's marketing campaign.

When users boot up Vista for the first time, they'll be wowed by the slick 3-D graphical user interface and document icons that give at-a-glance previews, Gates said. The next wow comes when they start using a system-wide search program that Microsoft's engineers built into both the operating system and new versions of Microsoft Word, Excel and other Office 2007 elements, which also hit store shelves at midnight.

Then, Gates said, there are layers of wows for all the different types of PC users: the gamers, the students, the business users, the moms.

But will this talk of "wow" translate into crowds at the CompUSA and Best Buy stores that are staying open until past midnight to sell the very first Vista machines?

Gates said Microsoft actually wasn't pushing midnight sales events -- after all, the software will be available as a download over the Web for the first time.

And while the software is prettier and more secure, "the biggest impact is always what partners do with it," Gates said.

Still, Gates didn't play down Vista's importance. He argued that as the PC has morphed from a souped-up typewriter to a networked entertainment center, personal media library and gateway to the Internet, the operating system itself has earned a higher profile.

"When people think about their PC, they think about Windows even more than who the manufacturer is. That determines how it looks, how you navigate, what the applications are that are available," Gates said. And in this case, Vista has folded in programs that users once bought separately -- including automated back-up systems and some spyware protections.

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