Microsoft unveils Windows 7 to plaudits, ending Vista 'nightmare'

After intense anticipation and buildup, Microsoft (MSFT) on Thursday unveiled its new operating system, Windows 7, ending what New York Times gadget guru David Pogue called a "three year Windows Vista nightmare." The critical response was generally positive -- perhaps not particularly surprising given that Vista had become so reviled for its bad performance, bugs and crashes.

"Today is an important day for the computer industry; certainly for Microsoft," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said at a Windows 7 launch event in New York. Reviewing the product, Pogue wrote: "Windows 7 means that Microsoft employees can show up in public without avoiding eye contact."
"With Windows 7, there's never been a better time to be a PC," Ballmer said in a statement. "Together with our partners, we're bringing more choice, flexibility and value to the market than ever before. With Windows 7, you're sure to find a PC that fits your life."

In his review of Windows 7, my colleague Paul Miller over at Engadget gave the new product a positive review.

"Where Vista felt like a sprawling mess, Windows 7 has patched up the holes and feels like a tight, unified mechanism," Miller wrote. "It's hardly full of surprises, but that's usually a good thing when it comes to operating systems. If you've never been a Windows person, there's hardly anything here that will change your mind about that. However, most human beings on this planet have some sort of interaction with Windows on a regular basis, whether by choice or necessity, and Windows 7 is great news for those millions of souls."

At the launch event in New York, Ballmer said Microsoft expects to sell 300 million Windows-based PCs in 2009. He said several different versions of the the product will be for sale between $119 and $219 at some 45,000 retailers across the world.

Windows is by far the most used operating system in the world, accounting for about 90 percent of the market.

The Times's Pogue said the new operating system "keeps what's good about Windows Vista, like security, stability and generous eye candy, and addresses much of what people disliked."

In the Wall Street Journal, personal technology columnist Walt Mossberg called Windows 7 "a faster and much better operating system than the little-loved Windows Vista, which did a lot to harm both the company's reputation, and the productivity and blood pressure of its users."

"After using pre-release versions of Windows 7 for nine months, and intensively testing the final version for the past month on many different machines, I believe it is the best version of Windows Microsoft has produced. It's a boost to productivity and a pleasure to use," Mossberg concluded.

Starting today, Windows will be available with what the company calls "an unprecedented array of new PCs and software programs." Additionally, Microsoft said it plans to launch "the next wave" of its global "I'm a PC" campaign, which shows Microsoft users expressing their enthusiasm about the company's products.

Over the past 18 months the company said it has collected feedback from "more than a billion opt-in customer sessions and 8 million beta testers" in order to offer the best product to consumers. The company also said that "more than 50,000 developers from 17,000 companies are enrolled in the Windows Ecosystem Readiness Program to build solutions for Windows 7."

Follow Sam Gustin, a reporter for DailyFinance, on Twitter here. Follow DailyFinance's tech coverage here.

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