It's been a day that the industry has waited for for some time: Windows 7 launch day.
It seems that it wasn't long ago that commentators were asking whether Vista would be Microsoft's last operating system - we all know how that ended.
So, rather quicker than usual, given Microsoft's typical torpor when it comes to new releases, we now have Windows 7 to poke around and play with.
We've already highlighted the excellent new features of the operating system: the Taskbar improvements, the Home Groups features and the others. We've examined the security features of the OS and we've assessed the feedback from the sales channel, the signs are looking good for Microsoft but then, they have to be.
It sounds like overkill to say that this is the last chance for Microsoft - this is a vast company that is not going to disappear any time soon and will continue to be a major player even if Windows 7 turned out to be a flop.
But Microsoft is facing a serious challenge in the desktop operating system space for the first time since its early battle with CP/M for IBM's mind (or at least its wallet). It's facing pressure from a newlyconfident Apple while open source operating systems continue their steady advance, not least from IBM's move towards the technology. There's also Google's Chrome OS waiting around the corner - and given Google's success in other areas, that's a pretty substantial threat.
Most of all, there's the emergence of the cloud and what that will mean for the desktop operating system and whether it signs the death sentence for the likes of Windows as some have claimed. Certainly, we're going to see more thin clients accessing cloud applications in the future. And that doesn't even take into account the use of smartphones as access devices.
Microsoft had a clear run at the market for a long time and now it's time to see how the company can cope with serious competition. To be fair, the early signs are encouraging; Windows 7 was developed in conjunction with other vendors and that level of co-operation has meant a better product. There are signs that the company is more prepared to listen to customers than it has in the past. And of course, Windows 7 is being launched at a time when many enterprises are looking to replace ageing machines, so the company's timing is perfect.
Now it's up to the customers. We can already say that it's been a success for the consumers but enterprises will be a tougher nut to crack.Microsoft has got to make a sound business case for overhauling existing PCs and to replace them with Windows 7. It used to be a no-brainer, now Microsoft has to work harder to justify itself - and that's certainly good news for the industry as a whole.
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