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Microsoft Windows Vista debuted in retail stores

Microsoft Windows Vista debuted in retail stores today, after much anticipation. Bill Gates contends that computer operating systems -- and Windows Vista in particular -- have a higher profile than ever before, as the PC has morphed from a souped-up typewriter to a networked entertainment center, personal media library, and gateway to the Internet. Retailers around the world stayed open through the wee hours of Tuesday morning to sell the long-awaited Windows Vista operating system, even though most knew customers wouldn't be lining up out the door.

At a CompUSA store in Raleigh, only about a dozen people gathered to be among the first consumers to get Vista. The low turnout wasn't surprising; even Microsoft Relevant Products/Services Corp. chairman Bill Gates said the company wasn't pushing the midnight sales events for first major Windows update since 2001. The Best Buy in Brooklyn, Ohio, arranged free hot dogs and autographs from former Cleveland Browns player Bob Golic. About 35 Vista packages were sold just after midnight. But only a few braved the snow after the store reopened at 8 a.m. -- and not everyone left with a copy.

Vista went on sale in 70 countries Tuesday, along with new versions of Microsoft Exchange e-mail software and the flagship Office business suite, which includes Word, Excel and PowerPoint. But unlike the recent launches of next-generation game machines like Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 3, customers haven't been camping out for days.

Though consumers can download Vista over the Web for the first time, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told one audience that, as in the past, most consumers will switch to Vista only when they buy new computers. More than five years in the making, Vista was released for businesses Nov. 30, but the unveiling for consumers only came Tuesday. The software retails for $100 to $400, depending on the version and whether the user is upgrading from Windows XP.

Microsoft contends that Vista is such a huge improvement over previous computing platforms that users inevitably say "Wow" when they see it. Gates ticked off some examples, such as how Vista presents a slick 3-D graphical user interface and document icons that give at-a-glance previews. Over the weekend, Dell Inc. started taking orders for PCs with Vista. Kevin Rollins, Dell's chief executive, said the company sold "tens of thousands of copies" for delivery Tuesday or later. PC World spokesman Hamish Thompson said some retailers are banking on Vista to push customers toward the higher-end machines needed to run Vista -- which imposes such hardware requirements as 1 gigabyte of system memory, or RAM. Consumers will also need to upgrade older software and devices to work with Vista.

Tags: Vista Windows Vista Microsoft

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