SEATTLE — Microsoft Corp. put a new edition of Windows on sale Thursday, hoping for a fresh start after a bad reception for the previous version of the software that runs most of the world's personal computers.
Windows 7 is now available on new computers, and as a software upgrade for some older PCs.
A Fry's Electronics store in Renton, Wash., several miles south of Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, opened at midnight to give customers an early shot at buying a new PC or a disc that they could use to put Windows 7 on their existing computers. Such upgrade discs start at $120.
"We're geeks, that's what geeks do. This is our excitement," said Mike Naramor, 55, who runs a consulting business called My Computer Guy and was one of about 50 people who were waiting outside the store when it opened.
Naramor said that he also had bought copies of the last two operating systems, XP and Vista, the nights they were released and that he planned to go home and install Windows 7 right away.
"Vista took me about 72 hours," he said. "I expect this to take me 20 minutes."
Indeed, Microsoft hopes people like Windows 7 more than its most recent predecessor, Vista, which was slow and didn't work well with existing programs and devices. Microsoft fixed many of Vista's flaws, but it was too late to repair the system's reputation.
Windows 7 promises to boot up faster and reduce the clicks needed to get common tasks done. Microsoft has cut out some redundant ways to start up programs and added flourishes that can help users keep track of all their open windows. It promises to put computers into sleep mode and wake them faster, too.
Windows 7 is also meant to be "quieter" — with fewer pop-up boxes, notifications, warnings and "are you sure ..." messages. Instead, many of those messages get stashed in a single place for the user to address when it's convenient.
To coincide with the Windows 7 launch, computer makers and retailers such as Best Buy Inc. are cutting prices for PCs to try to goose holiday-season sales. Microsoft also is beginning to try running its own retail stores, which has been enormously successful for Apple Inc. The first Microsoft store was set to open Thursday in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Analysts at Gartner Inc. aren't expecting the arrival of Windows 7 to cause a spike in consumer PC sales, which means prices for new machines figure to stay low. Last year was the worst in about six years for the PC industry, and global computer shipments declined through the first half of this year.
The recession has also led businesses to delay spending on PCs and other technologies. Because of those tight budgets and the lack of enthusiasm for Vista, more than 80 percent of new computers installed in offices still run Windows XP, which is now 8 years old, according to Forrester Research. A year from now, Forrester expects most new business PCs to be using Windows 7, but that won't necessarily translate into a huge boost for the PC industry.
In a recent interview, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer acknowledged that information-technology budgets "aren't going to rise just because we shipped a new (operating system)."