Ballmer's Promise: Windows 7 'Best Version Ever'

Microsoft's next operating system will be lighter, simpler, and faster, Steve Ballmer said at CES.
Kicking off CES 2009 Wednesday night in Las Vegas, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer used his opening keynote address to pitch Windows 7 to an audience of PC fans still smarting from a less-than-satisfying experience with Windows Vista.

Windows 7 screen shot.
(click for larger image and for full photo gallery)

"I am really excited about the progress we have made with Windows 7," said Ballmer, speaking to a packed room at the opulent Venetian Hotel.

"We are on track to deliver the best version of Windows ever. We're putting in all the right ingredients -- simplicity, reliability, and speed -- and working hard to get it right, and to get it ready," said Ballmer. Compared to the widely maligned Vista, Windows 7 "should boot more quickly, have longer battery life, and fewer alerts," Ballmer said.

Ballmer also touted Windows 7's improved support for networking and multimedia content, as well as its touch-screen capabilities.

Ballmer had some good news for early adopters looking to get their hands on an early version of Windows 7 as soon as possible. "Today I'm excited to announce that we are releasing the beta of Windows 7," Ballmer said.

Members of Microsoft's TechNet and MSEN communities have immediate access to the beta, while the general public will be able to download it for trial directly from Microsoft starting Friday. "I encourage you all to get out and download it," Ballmer said.

Microsoft needs Windows 7 to be a hit. Vista, the current version of Windows, has failed to catch on with mainstream computer users and businesses have shunned it outright. Many users have complained about Vista's hardware requirements, intrusive security measures, and lack of compatibility with older applications.

Dissatisfaction with Vista has allowed Apple to gain share against Microsoft in the computer operating system market in recent months. Windows' market share in November fell below 90% for the first time in years while Mac OS is now flirting with the 10% mark, according to market watcher Net Applications.

Microsoft is hoping that Windows 7, which is expected to be released in its final form in late 2009 or early 2010, will stem the tide. "Windows 7 will make everyday tasks faster and easier," Ballmer promised.