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Can Windows 7 dispel Vista's cloud?

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 21 October 2009

After criticism of its Vista computer operating system Microsoft launches its successor, Windows 7, but can it compete with the virtual world of the web?

Microsoft Windows7 (credit:Getty Images)

The Vista operating system was criticised for being too slow and hogging computers' memory. Now Microsoft will tomorrow launch its successor, Windows 7, which is supposed to be faster and slicker.

Windows 7: click here to find out how it works

But it faces competition from Apple and Google, which increasingly see power moving from physical machines to the virtual world of the internet - a concept known as cloud computing.

Chief Executive Steve Ballmer is putting his reputation on the line with the launch of the new Windows 7 operating system on Thursday.

The 53-year-old showman, now in his 10th year as CEO, took personal responsibility for Windows 7 after the mess of its predecessor Vista, and cannot afford another slip up.

The new operating system, arguably Microsoft's most important product launch since Windows 95 a decade ago, arrives as demand is growing to replace aging software and hardware. See a demonstration of the new system here.

Tom Royal from the publication Computeractive spoke to Krishnan Guru-Murthy about the new system.

"This is the case of Microsoft taking three years out since the launch of Vista - which wasn't very good - to really fine tune it and get rid of all the problems," he said.

"So they've made a slight change but they've done it well.

"They face a lot of competition but they haven't faced competition for a long time. Apple has had a good three years because they have had three years in which they can point the finger at Microsoft because Vista just wasn't any good.

"Google is bringing out something new next year but Microsoft has 90 per cent of the market and will probably keep that.

"This is a chance for Microsoft to fight back."

Windows 7: in the clouds

The launch of Windows 7 is likely to mark the beginning of a new era in computing.

Rather than depending on personal computers, information can now be stored and accessed via the internet or "cloud". Social networking and web-based email are examples of how cloud computing is already integrated onto computers and smart-phones.

As a result Microsoft has designed Windows 7 with fewer features, while integrating the use of downloading and accessing content online.

Ashley Highfield, who heads Microsoft's UK online operations, spoke to Channel 4 News about cloud computing.

"We do see the cloud as extremely important and already have a range of services in the cloud that allow you, for instance, to seamlessly move photos from device to device, from your mobile phone to your PC and move it round the house.

"We already have storage available in the cloud so you can back up all the content on your PC up into the cloud.

"But it is a combination of the operating system on your PC that gets things done really quickly, whether or not you are connected to the cloud.

"It's that combination of the PC operating system and the cloud that Microsoft thinks is where the optimum point lays.

"I think Windows 7 marks a considerable step forward in terms of the ease of use, the simplicity, the speed of the computer. It just makes using your PC simpler, more fun and it can do more things."

A botched $45 billion bid for Yahoo Inc last year, which blitzed Microsoft's stock price, left some investors questioning whether Steve Ballmer is the right leader for the world's largest software company.

Ballmer, despite his fist-pumping and high-volume leadership, has not lived up to his stated goal of creating a significant third business beyond Microsoft's two cornerstones, Windows and the Office suite of applications, which dominate the global PC market.

Microsoft has brought out the Xbox game console, mobile phone software, the Zune digital music player and Bing search engine, but does not yet have a clear winner like Apple Inc's iPhone or Google Inc's search ad business.

Critics say Ballmer has concentrated too much on business customers at the expense of the consumer.

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