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NEW YORK—If you are contemplating a PC purchase but concerned about waiting for Windows Vista, don’t wait, said Microsoft officials at the DigitalLife conference here.

G. Michael Sievert, corporate vice president of Windows Client marketing at Microsoft, opened the DigitalLife conference on Oct. 12 with a keynote in which he laid out the company’s plans for the rollout of the Vista operating system and the surrounding ecosystem of hardware and software that will support it.

Supporting Sievert in a demo role, Justin Hutchinson, group product manager, Windows Client, said “one of the things that lights up Windows Vista is the ecosystem of products that support Windows.”

Indeed, said Hutchinson, “close to 100 percent of the PCs on store shelves today are Windows Vista capable.”

Later Hutchinson said that about 98 percent of the new PCs being sold hold the “Windows Vista Capable” logo and a smaller percentage of those are branded as “Premium Ready.”

Windows Vista will become available for business customers in November, but Microsoft is planning to make the new operating system generally available to the public in a rollout slated for January 2007.

Sievert said PCs for sale now and through the holidays will bear either the “Windows Vista Capable” or “Windows Vista Premium Ready” logo.

Other hardware devices and software that support Vista will bear the “Certified for Windows Vista” logo.

Click here to read more about Vista compatibility questions.

“Right now there are more than 250 products with the Certified for Windows Vista logo even though we are several months from making it available,” Sievert said.

The DigitalLife conference is a four-day event where more than 50,000 consumers are expected to peruse the 200 brands represented in the conference exhibit hall.

Mark Simons, vice president and general manager for Toshiba America Information System’s Digital Products Division, and co-chair of the DigitalLife advisory board, said he views Windows Vista as “a look at how our world will come together, in terms of photography, sound, video, music, etc., all come together in a centralized platform.”

Sievert said the basic concept of Vista can be boiled down to four things: It is easier, safer, better connected and more entertaining than any other operating system Microsoft has produced.

“Windows Vista makes everything easier,” he said.

Sievert said that to track where the industry is going, “we need to take a look at where we’re coming from” and how much things have changed.

He said he believes there has been more change in the industry over the past few years than in any other period in the industry’s history.

“We’ve been dreaming about this for 30 years, but people are really starting to live that digital life,” he said, adding that a few years ago only about 16 percent of users were doing anything with digital photography, but today that number is closer to 60 percent.

He also said the adoption of digital music has soared, as has the use of mobility technologies.

“As we move beyond early adoption we have to figure out how to balance the power with the simplicity,” Sievert said.

In addition, Microsoft has paid a lot of attention to ensuring the safety and security of the operating environment, he said.

Moreover, as Windows is entering its third decade, Microsoft is thinking about the technology in terms of scenarios, Sievert said.

Some of the user scenarios Microsoft has considered include music, memories (photos and other things), productivity and communication, to name a few.

“We think about the modalities of how people use technology,” he said.

“It’s not about just creating and editing documents anymore. So Vista takes things like entertainment experiences and makes them much richer.”

Sievert launched into a demo of the technology, starting with the operating system’s visual enhancements and the ubiquity of the search capability of Vista.

“Search is contextually relevant in Windows Vista,” he said.

Sievert then demonstrated the Vista photo gallery capabilities and the product’s gaming center, which takes advantage of the DirectX 10 graphics capabilities of the operating system.

Sievert also demonstrated some of the safety features, including Windows Defender and parental controls.

Microsoft also launched a safety campaign titled “Safety Is No Game. Is Your Family Set?” at the conference.

Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices Division, launched the initiative at DigitalLife. The campaign kicks off in New York as the start of a 20-city bus tour.

Sievert demonstrated the new capabilities in the latest version of Windows Media Player, not only in music, but in terms of video and other media.

For instance, Windows Vista brings native high-definition to Windows, Sievert said.

“Windows Vista is about taking things people are doing today at a higher rate than ever before and making them easier,” he said.

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