Windows 7 aims to simplify

LOS ANGELES Tue Oct 28, 2008 3:44pm EDT

1 of 5. A screen showing libraries of photographs in Microsofts's new operating system Windows 7, introduced at the 2008 Microsoft Professional Developers Conference, is shown in this publicity photograph released in Los Angeles October 28, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Microsoft/Handout

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp is betting its next Windows operating system will be faster and easier to use and avoid the missteps of Windows Vista that alienated many users of the software that powers 90 percent of the world's PCs.

Windows 7, which was previewed on Tuesday, is set to be introduced in a test version early next year with features including touch screen technology and the ability to more easily personalize the system.

Windows Vista was so heavily criticized due to poor compatibility with devices and slow start speeds that it became the target of an effective marketing campaign by rival Apple Inc.

In addition, the usefulness of a traditional Windows desktop operating system, the world's largest software maker's most profitable product, is being challenged as more software applications move online, highlighting the central role of Internet browsers in a world centered on the Web.

Microsoft decided to measure success by a positive user experience versus technical superiority -- often overlooked by ordinary consumers.

Julie Larson-Green, a Microsoft corporate vice president in charge of overseeing the design of Windows 7, said: "It's fine to have the best technical solution. But just like VHS and Beta (Betamax), the best technical solution doesn't always matter," referring to the video format battles in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The company also adopted a 'simple is better' philosophy, looking to remove complexity from an operating system that incorporated 50 million lines of programing code in Vista.

"The general perception is that Vista is a damaged brand, so it behooves Microsoft to move on to sell something new even if it's not a quantum leap in terms of technology," said Toan Tran, analyst at Morningstar.

SUCCESS DEFINED BY USERS

Microsoft plans to introduce more user-friendly features, such as a new taskbar that previews all the open windows from a single application by hovering over the program's icon.

Another new feature is called "Jump Lists," which provides updated lists of recently worked-on documents or often visited Web sites without first having to open Microsoft Word or an Internet browser.

"People aren't coming to Windows to use Windows. People are coming to Windows to get to what they want to do. Helping them get to what they want to do is the goal of the operating system," said Larson-Green.

Larson-Green came over from the Office group with Steven Sinofsky, who took over Windows development with a reputation as a disciplined task master with a focus on simplifying the user interface.

To keep the team focused, every Windows 7 engineer was handed a pamphlet of core principles with Zen-like slogans such as "reduce concepts, increase confidence," and "small bad and good things matter."

The new philosophy at Windows is a nod to the success of Apple, which has seen its U.S. market share double since 2005 due in part to an advertising campaign that has portrayed Vista as clunky and harder to use.

Microsoft has countered with a $300 million marketing blitz featuring comedian Jerry Seinfeld, rapper Pharrell Williams, writer Deepak Chopra and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, looking to emphasize the reach and diversity of Windows users.

Windows Vista has sold more than 180 million licenses since its launch in January 2007, but Microsoft executives have said privately that the software over-promised and under-delivered, a problem that they say will not be repeated with Windows 7.

Windows 7 aims to keep hardware requirements in line with that of Vista so that companies do not need to buy special machines to run the new operating system.

Microsoft said it has also solved the compatibility problem with devices that plagued Vista at its launch with a new feature called Device Stage, a one-stop point to manage and gather information for devices from mobile phones to printers to digital music players.

Shares of Microsoft rose $1.06, or 5 percent, to $22.24 in afternoon Nasdaq trade.

(Reporting by Daisuke Wakabayashi; Editing by Derek Caney, Gary Hill)

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