Microsoft Canada Co. unveiled the consumer versions of Windows Vista and Office 2007 with much fanfare yesterday focusing on the products’ new user-interface, enhanced search capabilities, and improved security.
The launch event – held in Toronto – was conducted in a “uniquely Canadian” style.
The setting was a house carved entirely from ice, within which displays showcased how Microsoft’s latest offerings integrated into the domestic lives of users.
Scenarios depicted included: doing banking over the Internet while preparing a meal in the kitchen, watching television from a wide-screen monitor in the living room, and conducting business from a home office.
Microsoft Canada execs focused on aspects of Vista and Office 2007 that they believe are likely to appeal to consumers.
These include features that provide for a more enjoyable, as well as more secure computing experience, according to Jill Schoolenberg, general manager for Windows client at Mississauga-based Microsoft Canada.
“It’s more fun, more entertaining, more connected, and makes your computing experience a lot safer,” Schoolenberg told IT World Canada.
Vista consumer editions include Home Basic, Home Premium and Ultimate.
Vista Home Basic supports the most common computing capabilities such as e-mail, Internet access, as well as photo archiving.
Vista Home Premium provides the added functionality of mobile computing and digital entertainment.
Vista Ultimate merges capabilities of the Home Premium and Business editions, offering automatic file backup, business networking connectivity, BitLocker drive encryption (encodes the hard drive in the event of theft), and Windows Movie Maker.
The notion that work and personal life has, to some degree, become intertwined is reflected in the Vista Ultimate edition, says Schoolenberg.
“Business and work life is not as divided as it used to be. We’ve got one integrated life and the Ultimate edition gives us one integrated experience.”
According to the Microsoft Canada executive, Vista Ultimate is geared towards users who want the look and feel of their business environment at home; small business owners; and people who regularly work from home.
But for consumers looking for rudimentary functionality in an operating system, Vista Home Basic is still worth the upgrade from Windows XP, Schoolenberg says.
She noted that the “instant search” capability (across file names, metadata, and file content), and enhanced security features (including phishing Web site detection) would cost the user just over $100 more. “I don’t think that’s a lot to invest, to get those two benefits.”
Moreover, she says, the visual appeal of Windows Aero is a definite bonus.
The new hardware-based graphical user interface in Windows Vista, Windows Aero is an acronym for Authentic, Energetic, Reflective and Open. It was intended to be a cleaner, more powerful, more efficient and more aesthetically pleasing user interface.
The Office 2007 suites, have “virtually the same” hardware requirements as Windows XP and can be installed with or without Vista, says Mike Bulmer, senior product manager, Microsoft Office system at Microsoft Canada Co.
The only challenge that new users might face with Office 2007 is getting used to the new layout. But even then, he says, it only takes between two days to a week to get comfortable.
Among the consumer-geared editions of Office 2007 are Office Home and Student 2007, and Office Ultimate 2007.
Bulmer says Office Home and Student 2007 are slated to be most popular among consumers looking for the basic functionality of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.
Office Ultimate 2007 adds the networking connectivity – useful in business – with other functionalities, such as Microsoft Publisher 2007 that can create marketing collateral and business cards.
As with Vista Ultimate edition, Office Ultimate 2007 reflects the fact that the home is becoming an extension to the workplace, says Bulmer.
“We see lots of people running small businesses at home, or maybe seeking a work-life balance by returning home early to spend time with their kids, then resuming work on their PCs after the kids have gone to bed.”
He said Office Ultimate 2007 responds to this trend offering users the familiar look and feel of the office productivity environment at home.
Key enhancements to Office 2007 include Live Preview and Smart Art.
Live Preview allows a user to see in real time what a formatting change, for example, would look like before it’s applied. Smart Art makes designing organization charts and PowerPoint presentations, for example, easier with graphic options.