announced today the business availability of the Windows Vista operating system, the 2007 release of Microsoft Office, and other new business software offerings. Vista and Office 07 be available from 30 January. The OS and Office launches were described as "the beginning of the most significant product launch in company history". It was also noted that it's the first "simultaneous release" of Windows and Office since the joint launch of the Windows 95 operating system and Office 95 more than a decade ago.Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
There wasn't a lot for Web fans to sink their teeth into from Ballmer's speech today - judging by the press release and Mary-Jo Foley's report anyway. The closest Ballmer came to recognizing the huge importance of the Internet was the theme of "People-Ready Business", which was couched in the usual Microsoft talk of enhancing productivity, unleashing potential, etc.
However there is one Web-related paragraph in the press release:
"Windows Vista and the 2007 Microsoft Office system also provide the core platform that will enable businesses to take advantage of the benefits of Internet-based software services. These products incorporate key XML and Web services technologies that will help companies tap into online services and select the mix of on-premise and hosted applications to deliver the right balance of control, convenience, cost-effectiveness, and security while helping increase productivity."
The part I emphasized sums up Microsoft's approach to the Web in Vista and Office. Because both products (OS and Office) are PC-based, Microsoft's clear strategy is to ensure there is a link from the desktop out to the Web. And vice versa - but make no mistake, the desktop is their key platform still. Ray Ozzie's conversation with John Battelle at the recent Web 2.0 Summit provides more details about this. For example:
"Ray says the Web is good at universal access, sharing scenarios, etc - and the PC is good at flexible and fast UI, is reliable. He says we're going to a world where we're dropping media items into our documents, but the PC was designed for media editing."
What's perhaps of most interest to Web fans, is whether Microsoft's live.com start page will be used as a default homepage on Vista (via IE7). Or maybe Live Search is a better bet, which will strike at the heart of Google's challenge. If Live Search is the default homepage (we already know it will be the default search engine), then that will improve Microsoft's search market share by default too.
As we noted recently, Vista will put pressure on Google's product line - as Vista will have IE7 as its default browser, and Live Search as default search and maybe the default homepage (either that or live.com, or MSN if they're being super conservative). 2007 is shaping up to be a fascinating year in the battle of the Web giants.