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Tuesday, May 15, 2007 - Page updated at 12:32 PM

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Gates calls Vista sales "amazing"

Seattle Times technology reporter

LOS ANGELES — Bill Gates said Microsoft was "amazed" at the response to Windows Vista, the company's flagship product, which has sold nearly 40 million copies since its release Jan. 30.

Speaking today to a highly technical audience at Microsoft's Windows Hardware Engineering Conference here, the Microsoft founder and chairman said his company had high expectations for the product.

"I mean, we knew that Vista would become the standard version of Windows," Gates said. "... But what's happened in the last 100 days has been beyond our expectations. As of last week, we've had nearly 40 million copies sold and so that's twice as fast as the adoption of Windows XP, the last major release that we had."

In March, Microsoft said it had sold 20 million copies of Vista in its first month on the market. The company emphasized then that this was double the initial sales pace of XP, which was released Oct. 25, 2001, so today's announcement is not particularly surprising.

Gates went on to take a jab at smaller competitors in the operating-system business — notably Apple, which has fielded a series of biting commercials attacking Vista and the PC platform and seen sales of its Mac computers surge. But Apple and open-source operating systems such as Linux still hold a tiny share of the market.

"In our first five weeks, we've matched the entire installed base of any other provider of similar software," Gates said.

Gates went on to provide details on two upcoming server products — one aimed at homes with multiple PCs, and the other a new version of the company's widely used software for corporate networks.

The Windows Home Server, a new product Microsoft announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, is set to be available this fall, Gates said.

More than a dozen new hardware partners are working on home-server products, and Microsoft will license it to system builders who want to make custom home-servers, Gates said. Microsoft had one partner, Hewlett-Packard, when it announced the product.

The Home Server software is designed to back up, manage, secure and access content on multiple PCs connected to a home network — essentially allowing a home user to better perform some of the functions of a corporate IT administrator.

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In an on-stage demonstration, Steven Leonard, senior product manager, showed how a parent could disable access to a child's music as a punishment for leaving a firewall security feature disabled.

For corporate networks, Microsoft is finalizing Windows Server, code-named "Longhorn" and expects to release the software code for manufacturing by the end of this year, Gates said.

"This is a product that has driven incredible growth and success for both Microsoft and the industry," Gates said.

Gates confirmed that Longhorn server will officially be called Windows Server 2008 — a fact that was of little surprise to conference attendees both because of the company's drab naming conventions and because Microsoft inadvertently leaked the name earlier in the week. Gates acknowledged it with a bit of sarcasm.

"I know it's a surprise for us to pick something so straightforward, but we thought that would be the best choice," he said.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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