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Kylie, the precocious 5-year-old from the television commercials, took center stage at the Microsoft Windows 7 launch event to inaugurate the new operating system. Her declaration, “I’m a Windows 7 PC.”

The diminutive Kylie struck the cord that Microsoft wanted for the Windows 7 launch event: simplicity. While the launch event focused mostly on the applications and functions designed for consumers and home users. But the underlying message is Windows 7 is designed by Microsoft partners and customers to function and perform in the way that provides greater productivity and experiences than prior versions.

“It’s designed to make every day usage of the PC better in the way our customers want it. Simpler, faster, more responsive the way customers want it,” Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer declared to a packed room of reporters, partners and customers.

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Microsoft went to great lengths to highlight the involvement of partners and customers in the development of Windows 7, the version designed and hyped to redeem the software vendor from the poor experiences of Windows Vista. Joining Microsoft’s team of 8,000 engineers that designed Windows 7, executives said more than 50,000 partners—hardware OEMs, independent software vendors and integrators—as well as more than 8 million beta users were involved in creation and refinement of the OS.

“Across the planet, feedback coming in from people of all walks of live to help us improve and make Windows 7 PCs what customers really want,” Ballmer said.

The Windows 7 launch event at the Skylight Studios in Manhattan’s SOHO section, Microsoft focused primarily on the consumer implementations of the operating system. The demos were replete with reviews of Windows 7 multimedia capabilities, home networking, interoperability with conventional peripherals and consumer electronics and touch-screen capabilities.

Microsoft’s channel presence at the launch event was minimal. However, channel chief Allison Watson sent a letter to partners yesterday calling on them to support the new operating system and to take advantage of the incentive and support program to help partners migrate their customers to Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, also launched today.

“In talking with many partners from around the world over the past few months, it has been amazing to feel the momentum that is behind these products. The partner and customer feedback, as well as the press coverage around these launches, have been very positive. We are constantly hearing from partners that their customers are telling them not only how excited they are about these products, but also how they see productivity improvements and cost savings that will make a material difference in their businesses,” wrote Watson and Tami Reller, corporate vice president of the Windows and Windows Live group.

Microsoft expectations for Windows 7 are exceedingly high. In 2007, Microsoft launched Windows Vista, the successor to Windows XP. In his address at the launch event, Ballmer said more than 300 million new PCs will be sold around the world over the next 12 months, of which most will run Windows. Microsoft also claims an install base of more than 1 billion units globally. Industry analysts believe Windows 7 will spark a business and consumer PC refresh. Both market segments have been sitting on aging PCs because of economic pressure brought by the recession and reluctance to migrate to Windows Vista.

PC manufacturers displayed their machines at the Windows 7 launch event, many sporting the new functionality, low energy consumption and touch-screen interfaces. Companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Acer, Lenovo and Dell see Windows 7 as an opportunity to restart their slumping desktop and notebook sales. Microsoft and the major computer and peripheral vendors will start pushing promotions and incentives around Windows 7, initially in the consumer/retail market for the holiday shopping season and then in the business-to-business channel.

“From a buyer perspective, Ovum expects the Windows 7 launch as an opportunity to undertake some serious housekeeping, especially for organizations that have stuck with XP,” says Jean Butler, a principal analyst at research firm Ovum. “One has to give Microsoft credit, this version of the Windows platform has had far more engagement with stakeholders than previous versions, with users (consumer and enterprise) and partners having substantial input, with specific demands for security, reliability and speed being the development cornerstones. Microsoft has also driven through its shortest beta testing cycle ever – cynically, one could say it needed to be.”

Solution providers are generally optimistic about Windows 7, and many expect the new operating system will capture the interest and adoption of business users.

“The bottom line is whether Windows 7 will deliver usability and productivity improvements along with stability and security. We believe it will. In our testing, W7 performs better than XP and dramatically better than Vista on the same hardware. Enhancements such as the improved taskbar with jump lists and search functionality add to the productivity gains that users will experience. Businesses may be slow to adopt in the early going, but in my opinion, Windows 7 will not fail in the long run,” said Frank Bellatore, president of The New England Computer Group in a post to the Channel Insider blog.

Interoperability issues dogged Windows Vista when it was released in 2007. Microsoft worked closely with PC manufacturers, software developers and peripherals companies to ensure that their devices worked out of the box with Windows 7. As insurance, Microsoft included “XP mode,” a virtual safe mode for ensuring applications and devices worked seamlessly with the new OS. Several software vendors, including McAfee, N-Able and Level Platforms, were quick to issues notices proclaiming their interoperability with Windows 7.

“Today is an important day for the computer industry, certainly for Microsoft, and most importantly for all of the customers to share in this new experience,” Ballmer said closing the program at the Windows 7 launch event.

While Microsoft is proud of its Windows 7 creation, not all users are completely happy. Apple is using the Windows 7 launch as an opportunity to convert more users to its Mac legions. Linux bloggers are evangelizing the benefits of their open source platform over Windows. And several bloggers and users are expostulating that the improvements and functionality the Microsoft included in Windows 7 should have been available years ago at a much lower development cost.