The launch of Windows 7 is hugely important for Microsoft, but in time may also represent the company's historical high point.
As launches go, Windows 7 was quite understated compared to previous operating system releases. In 1995 Microsoft paid The Rolling Stones millions for the rights to Start me up and bought every edition of the The Times to give away free.
the Windows XP launch was also a big deal, with senior executives clocking up the air miles to spread the message around the world. By contrast, Windows 7 has had a number of launch events - and some cringe-inducing home launch parties no doubt - but has concentrated on getting the message out to businesses and consumers that Windows 7 is out, and it is not Vista.
This is ironic, since Windows 7 is basically Vista as it should have been. It runs on similar hardware, it has a lot of the same features and much of the code is the same. This shows up in the development time. Windows 7 came out less than three years after the launch of Vista, compared to more than five years from XP to Vista.
Microsoft, as well as the computer manufacturers and the components companies that supply them, desperately needs Windows 7 to kick off a refresh cycle in office hardware, and it is this that will be key to Microsoft's future.
Vista was a disaster for the hardware industry. Companies were not willing to roll out the operating system because of poor reviews and the knowledge that they would have to replace not only their software, but upgrade their hardware to run the system.
At first it looked like this would be an issue of timing, and Microsoft executives were confident that, as Vista's bugs got ironed out, companies would come round. But then the recession kicked in and spending on hardware and software fell away sharply.
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