New Windows Has New Sound

Microsoft is getting ready to release its new Windows Vista operating system. The system will come with a new start-up sound, the morning greeting for millions of workers every day.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And today's last word in business goes to the first sound you hear when Windows launches on your computer.

(Soundbite of Windows XP startup)

MONTAGNE: Yes, that's the sound for Widows XP. Microsoft is about to replace XP with Windows Vista and it comes with new sounds.

Here's NPR's Wendy Kaufmann with a sneak preview.

WENDY KAUFMANN: We'll play a new sounds in just a minute, but first a bit of history. If you opened Windows 95, it sounded like this.

(Soundbite of Windows 95 startup)

KAUFMANN: By Windows 2000, it had morphed into something synthetic and techno.

(Soundbite of Windows 2000 startup)

KAUFMANN: Next, Windows XP, with a more literal and realistic sound.

(Soundbite of Windows XP startup)

KAUFMANN: XP is about to be replaced with Vista, Microsoft's long-delayed upgrade to its operating system. It will be released to business customers later this month, and to consumers at the end of January.

Microsoft's Steve Ball, who's both a musician and an engineer, was in charge of creating Vista's new sounds. The process began back in 2004.

Mr. STEVE BALL (Microsoft): So we went and brought in about 10 composing sound designers and asked them to submit candidates that could become this new startup sound.

And over the course of two years, we went from somewhere around 2,000 submissions and whittled it down to the new Windows Vista startup sounds.

(Soundbite of Windows Vista startup)

KAUFMANN: It is less jarring and intrusive, but I had to wonder, and asked Ball, does anyone actually pay attention at the sound their computer makes when it starts up?

Mr. BALL: I think if you ask a general person on the street, the answer might be, I don't think I care.

KAUFMANN: But he says it was the company's goal to turn what many perceives simply as noise into something musical, subtle and aesthetically pleasing.

There's a general feeling that Microsoft has long lagged behind Apple computer in its design elements. But Steve Ball says there is now an awareness of design at Microsoft that didn't exist a decade ago.

Wendy Kaufmann, NPR News, Seattle.

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