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Tue, Feb 28, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Microsoft to sell six types of Vista OS

OPERATING SYSTEM The company will offer three different versions of the software for home users, two for business users and one for emerging markets

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Microsoft Corp said yesterday it plans to sell six versions of the Windows Vista operating system, including a consumer edition with entertainment features now sold separately, to spark sales of the new software.

Windows Vista Home Premium will let users record and play television, use a wireless link to transmit shows to their TVs and enter data on a touch screen with a stylus, Microsoft's Neil Charney, a senior director for the world's largest software company, said in an interview last week.

Prices weren't given.

Microsoft is adding features built around entertainment, photography and data search to spur upgrades of Windows, the Redmond, Washington-based company's biggest and most profitable business. The new version of Windows is two years late, slowing sales growth as customers await new software. The company said in July last year that it would offer more high-priced versions to boost revenue.

"There's the potential for Microsoft to capture more revenue with software that should have a bigger price mark-up," said Al Gillen, an analyst with market researcher IDC, based in Framingham, Massachusetts.

Two versions of Vista, which are expected to go on sale in the second half of the year, will be for business. Three will be for consumers and a sixth edition, called Starter, will be sold in emerging markets, the firm said yesterday in a statement.

Windows Vista Business and Windows Vista Enterprise are geared for faster set-up than earlier versions, Charney said.

Vista Enterprise also encrypts laptop computer hard drives, protecting information in case PCs are lost or stolen.

For consumers, Windows Vista Home Basic will provide a simplified system for Web browsing, e-mail and creating documents.

Windows Vista Home Premium includes features now found in the existing Windows Tablet and Media Center software. It will control home entertainment devices, including TVs, music and movies.

The software will record TV shows and use a wireless capability to transmit them to Microsoft's Xbox 360 video-game console for play on a connected TV. Vista Home Ultimate combines features from both the Premium and Enterprise editions.

Consumers may be confused by the number of choices, said Michael Cherry, an analyst at Kirkland, Washington-based Directions on Microsoft.

"Purchasers just want to buy the features they need to be productive, but they don't want to pay for features they won't ever use," Cherry said last week. "There will always be this fear that they're either paying too much or that they could be having a better experience" with other versions.

CEO Steve Ballmer said this month that Microsoft aims to begin selling Vista in time for the holiday shopping season.

"If we're not in stores before Thanksgiving in the US anyway, that's not a good thing," he said in a Feb. 14 interview at a conference in Barcelona.

That may be too late to provide the boost in sales that Microsoft hopes for, Jupiter Research analyst Joe Wilcox said.

"Most people get Windows with a new PC, rather than by upgrading," he said. "We are coming off two strong years of PC upgrades, and Vista may be shipping a year too late."

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