TECHNOLOGY giant Microsoft Corporation yesterday launched the 2007 versions of its flagship software products Windows, Microsoft Office and Exchange Server at the Jamaica Pegasus in Kingston, two weeks ahead of the United States.
The new products, Windows Vista, Microsoft Office 2007 and Exchange Server 2007 were released in trial packs as part of the company's business productivity platform and promise to "deliver better results faster". Similar launches are to take place throughout the Caribbean and Central American region as well as other areas around the world and on November 30, the product will be made available to Microsoft's business customers worldwide.
Retail consumers will not be able to access the software until January 2007.
In a demonstration seminar at the Kingston launch, the new software - much-improved beta versions of Windows XP, Microsoft office suite 2003 and Exchange - were described as "intelligent", "results-oriented" and "sophisticated". All three packages offer new features to help organisations simplify the way people work with each other, to find information quickly and easily, to protect and manage content, and to ultimately reduce IT costs, Microsoft said.
Windows Vista features an easy-to-use interface which makes finding information a breeze. Tool bars have been replaced by 'ribbons' and icons on these 'ribbons' give previews of documents, again rendering tasks super easy. Another unprecedented feature of the new beta software is searching for a programme or document using the desktop search tool as opposed to searching through an entire directory.
With Office 2007, the emphasis is on visual appeal and on increasing efficiency. Information runs within different applications and open programmes are presented in a trendy 3-D format. Minimised programmes running in the task bar can also be previewed with a touch of the mouse, thereby eliminating the need to open each one in a search situation.
Exchange Server 2007 includes such security and cost-saving enhancements as a built-in protection to improve the reliability of e-mail, tools to help reduce the cost of running messaging environments and a data protection component which prevents hackers from getting into systems hosted by the Exchange Server.
Even Microsoft Outlook benefited from a make-over. The new version features the user's mailbox folders, a selected message, calendar and 'to do' list, among others, all in one single view.
Microsoft's representatives are pleased with the new products and in a release issued by the office in the Caribbean and Central America, are quoted as saying: "We are meeting our innovation goals with the introduction of our flagship products - Windows Vista, Microsoft Office 2007 and Exchange Server 2007. "..These three products are easy to use as well as easier to distribute, adapt and manage. (They) connect and integrate with the software, technologies, devices and services that organisations and their partners use or might deploy in the future".
Speaking with the Observer after the launch, Microsoft's territory manager for the western Caribbean and Jamaica, Joe McKinson, said there were great benefits to be had from the new software.
"What it will do is to reinforce and enhance our (Microsoft's) position in the IT industry," he said.
"The new products will make the organisations more efficient from a productivity standpoint. There will be ease of communication, there will be less things to do to get a task done and organisations can now position themselves to be more productive, more efficient and better able to position themselves in the world of work where there is a focus embracing technology," McKinson said, in addressing the benefits to businesses.
He said the corporation's decision to host a launch in Jamaica was testimony to the fact that the technology available here is on par with that of first-world countries, including the United States.
Minister of state in the Ministry of Industry, Technology, Energy and Commerce, Kern Spencer, in addressing the launch, reiterated Jamaica's technological readiness when compared to other countries.
"Today Jamaica is ranked 54th in terms of network readiness in the World Economic Forum's Global Information Technology Report which covered some 115 economies worldwide. In that regard, we are number one in the Caribbean region," Spencer told the group of business and IT bosses.
"Our goal in the ministry is to always be on the cutting edge of technology in keeping with our vision for Jamaica to be the centre of ICT activities in the region. Although the pace is not as fast as we would like, there is no doubt that we have come a far way in a relatively short space of time," said the junior minister.