After five years -- a time frame even government IT leaders would find surprising -- Microsoft has finally introduced its newest operating system, Windows Vista.
At a press conference held yesterday at NASDAQ's headquarters in the heart of midtown Manhattan, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced the business availability of Vista, the 2007 release of Microsoft Office and a host of other products. "This is the biggest launch in the company's history, the most significant launch," he said.
Yesterday's announcement unveiled the company's flagship products for the business and government market. Vista and Office 2007 will be available to consumers and organizations without volume license agreements on Jan. 30.
Ballmer emphasized how the software releases have been tailored to work in today's increasingly complex interconnected world, where workers demand greater flexibility in how they work, yet must deal with issues of information overload. As a result, Vista and Office have been upgraded to simplify how workers find and use information and then collaborate with other workers. In addition, the new versions have been designed to reduce costs and improve information security, according to Ballmer.
The new versions of Windows, Office and Exchange Server 2007 were run through 1 billion user sessions prior to release, according to Microsoft, by customers around the world who downloaded more than 5 million beta versions of the products.
In addition to Vista, Office and Exchange Server, Microsoft will offer business and government more than 30 new software tools next year, according to Ballmer. "We expect that more than 200 million people will be using at least one of these products by the end of 2007," he said.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the government of Canada are among a host of major organizations that have become early adopters of Microsoft's latest products. Some of the benefits of Vista and Office cited by early adopters include: cost savings through process workflow automation, easier access to information, improved collaboration with colleagues and lower costs of compliance.
Shaygan Kheradpir, CIO for Verizon Communications, has begun implementing Vista at the telecom giant to help position it for what he sees as the perfect storm of digital convergence between Microsoft's operating system, the Internet and rich content. He advised other CIOs to accept that lines between work and the home are going to continue to blur. "CIOs have to stay up with innovation as this happens," he said. "They have to have the right tools."
For government, one of Microsoft's biggest markets, two issues are paramount as they evaluate the new products: security and lower cost of computing. The new versions of Windows, Office and Exchange Server deliver breakthrough security features, according to the software company. One feature in particular, BitLocker -- a data protection feature in Vista -- allows IT administrators to lock down data on laptops, as well as desktop PCs, according to Keith Garred, a Microsoft Windows client specialist for state and local government. "Security is a huge issue for government, and Vista offers many new features to keep data secure," he said.
IT administrators can expect lower costs from a number of enhancements that reduce expenses related to security and desktop administration, according to Garred.
From a strategic perspective, Ballmer said that the products that Microsoft is making available to business and government have the potential to unify communications, such as VoIP, e-mail, IM and video; help workers stay in sync with information created with new Web technologies, such as Wikis and blogs; allow organizations to connect and share information using collaboration and workflow tools built into SharePoint Server and better integrate mobile workers into the entire business experience.