Microsoft has kicked off a day-long launch of its Vista operating system, Office 2007 suite and Exchange Server 2007 applications for businesses at three locations in Asia.

It's the first time that new versions of Windows and Office have been launched simultaneously since 1995, making it one of Microsoft's biggest ever launches. The three products are available from today to volume licensing customers. Consumer versions won't be available until next year.

"I'm super excited about this launch today. It's been a very long journey but now I can say that we have truly arrived," said Darren Huston, CEO of Microsoft's Japan unit.

The launch began in Sydney and was followed with similar events in Tokyo and Beijing. Microsoft Japan has 57 companies that have said they will roll-out at least one of the three products. The list includes Sharp, Sanyo, McDonalds, Nikon, computer game maker Capcom and trading company Itochu.

Interest from potential users in Japan has been high, according to Huston. Of five million downloads and one billion user sessions conducted as part of the beta testing for Windows Vista, about 20 percent have been by users in Japan. The country accounts for about 10 percent of the global IT market.

Microsoft will also hold launch events in Munich, London, Paris, Toronto and New York. The London event has just started at the new Emirates stadium, home to Arsenal Footbal Club. The New York event will be webcast from 10.35am EST here.

Original reporting by IDG News Service