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Microsoft Rolls Out Vista

Consumer versions will hit store shelves in January.

After years of delays,


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has launched newversions of its two most important products -- Windows and Office.

At a press conference Thursday at Nasdaq's Times Squareheadquarters, CEO Steve Ballmer nodded to the years of frustrationssaying, "It's exciting to finally be here." Ballmer confidentlypredicted that "more than 200 million people will be using at leastone of these products by the end of 2007."

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Microsoft released the business versions of Office and Vista, as the new version of Windows is called. Consumer versions of Vista and Office will go on sale at the end of January.

The giant software maker also launched new server versions of tworelated products, Exchange, for email, and SharePoint, forcollaborative projects, and has more than two dozen new or upgradedapplications slated for release in the next year or so as part ofMicrosoft's largest-ever wave of new products.

Microsoft and the PC industry, which has seen sales growth slow,are counting on the new products to increase sales.

Many on Wall Street believe that the new products will giveMicrosoft's topline a substantial boost; indeed since mid-yearshares have appreciated by about 40%. But there are also analysts whobelieve that businesses will be in no hurry to begin the laboriousand expensive process of upgrading their computer systems.

Shares of Microsoft were off 11 cents to $29.46 in recent trading.