MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Today, Microsoft rolls out its new operating system. It's called Vista. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says that Vista is the biggest launch in the company's history, and considering how big that company is, that is quite the statement. It's available to businesses now. Consumers have to wait until the end of January for this major operating system upgrade.
Joining us to talk about this is Leo Laporte of the radio show and podcast This Week in Tech. And Leo, it's been five years since Microsoft Windows XP. It wasn't supposed to be such a long wait. What happened?
Mr. LEO LAPORTE (This Week in Tech): Yeah, about four years longer than Microsoft wanted it to be, actually. Well, it was a very ambitious project. They had a lot of features in it that they weren't able to make work. They wanted the ability to screen e-mail and phone calls. They were going to have an ability for the computer to find you wherever you were. You were going to be able to access it from home. And one by one, they dropped these features as Microsoft realized either that they weren't feasible or they weren't working or they just, you know, the developers couldn't do it.
NORRIS: So it's now available to business, soon to consumers. What's new? What's actually in this program?
Mr. LAPORTE: Well, on the surface you'll see a lot of new stuff. They have something called Aero Glass, which is a new, shiny look to it. They've also made things easier. There's an instant search, the start button has changed. It has search now, which is good. If you installed a lot of programs, sometimes it was hard to find it when you clicked the start button.
There's new programs for media editing and playback, a new Internet Explorer. But most important changes are under the hood, things the users won't see, like an updated security system.
NORRIS: What have they actually done to improve security?
Mr. LAPORTE: Well, they've turned on things like the firewall. They've prevented system changes without user approval. They've added an anti-spyware program. All of these should make a big difference. And of course, they're re-written a lot of Vista to take out a lot of the bugs, they say.
NORRIS: What will you actually experience with this upgrade? You know, you log on for the first time. What will you see and experience as you start to use the system?
Mr. LAPORTE: It'll both be familiar and different. I mean, it's still Windows. You'll see a start button, the taskbar's in the same place, but there are few new things. Icons look different. If you've got that slick, new Aero Glass interface, it'll be very shiny and pretty and there's lots of translucency.
Over on the right, you'll see a new gadget bar that adds kind of little widgets or gadgets to the operation system, things like clocks and weather forecasts, but once you start using it, I think you'll see more differences. Things that you're used to having work one way will work slightly different. The search will be very different. I don't think it's going to be so different that people will be disoriented, but you'll know you're using Vista.
NORRIS: Leo, I understand that you're one of the few people that's actually got a chance to look at this through some sort of beta test. What did you think of it?
Mr. LAPORTE: Me and two million other people. This is actually the most extensively tested version of Windows in history. I like it a lot. In fact, I plan to move to it, you know, on all my machines right away.
NORRIS: Does Microsoft have a lot riding on this?
Mr. LAPORTE: Everything's riding on this. You know, it's been five years. Most of Microsoft's revenue comes from upgrades. They haven't had an upgrade for Windows in some time. They haven't had an upgrade for Office in some time. They're shipping new versions of both, and if these are not successful, particularly if they're not secure, if the problems with spyware and viruses don't go away, this could hurt Microsoft badly.
NORRIS: Are there hackers out there that have been eagerly awaiting the debut of this new system?
Mr. LAPORTE: You know, there are 600 million Windows users. That is a pool of people that hackers are desperate to get. So this is, you know, this is a prime pool of wonderful computers, and they're just salivating over Windows Vista.
NORRIS: So what's at stake for Microsoft, and what will determine whether or not this rollout is successful?
Mr. LAPORTE: All eyes are on Vista and particularly on Vista security. It's been very painful for Windows users over the last few years with spyware and viruses. If Vista doesn't conquer this problem, frankly there are other contenders out there waiting in the wings, Macintosh and Linux, and there are going to be a lot of people looking at those contenders if Windows Vista can't do the job.
NORRIS: Leo, it's good to talk to you. Thanks so much.
Mr. LAPORTE: My pleasure, Michele.
NORRIS: Leo Laporte. He's with the radio show and podcast called This Week in Tech.
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