Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer might not have made the trip Down Under, but Microsoft stressed Australians played a significant role in designing the new Windows Vista operating system at its launch in Sydney today.
Launching the consumer versions of Vista and Office 2007 before about 100 assembled media, Microsoft platforms and services division president, Kevin Johnson, said over five million people had tested beta versions of the software.
"In fact, we had about 90,000 individuals in Australia who participated in these betas, giving us feedback, helping us shape the products," he said.
"We gathered data from over one billion user sessions of our Office applications and we factored that in [to the software].
"We aren't guessing what customers want, they told us. From families to small business owners, from students to IT professionals, from power users to novice users, and the result we believe, is the highest quality and most responsive releases ever."
Johnson said Vista was easier, safer, more entertaining and better connected to the Internet than previous versions of the operating system.
A Macintosh-like "flip 3D" interface for switching applications, built-in backup and restore functions, new search functionality and the ability to remember Internet connection locations and settings are some of the new features.
Microsoft ANZ managing director Steve Vamos told media Vista's release was a "landmark" event for the industry, and said it culminated years of hard work.
He also used his speech to signal the changing of the guard for the company in Australia.
"On a personal note, it's a landmark occasion for me as I rapidly approach the end of my time as managing director of Microsoft Australia and New Zealand. I'm very glad, very proud, to include this launch of our new products in my last week on the job.
Vamos has been appointed to vice president, international, online services group at Microsoft in the US. His successor, Tracey Fellows, was also present.
"Tracey I can assure you is absolutely Vista-ready and capable. She's easy to get on with, safe pair of hands, well-connected and fun to work with," he said.
In her short speech on Vista, Fellows stressed the security improvements of Internet Explorer 7's protected mode and Windows Defender.
Defender monitors the PC for malware/spyware and provides tools for its removal.
The soon-to-be managing director said Australian users' concerns had been accounted for as part of a global survey on security for the development of Vista.
"This is an issue that is hugely important to me," she said.
"I regard our ability to create products that support people's lives and priorities, products that are designed from the ground up with users in mind, is vitally important to our ongoing success in Australia."