REDMOND, Washington: The Windows Vista PC operating system officially went on sale to ordinary mortals today (Tuesday) at one second past twelve midnight - although it has been available to large corporate users for the past few months. Ironically, few of the latter - traditionally leery at investing megabucks in wobbly new operating systems - have yet ventured to install Vista.

Also making its retail debut today is Vista's sibling product, the latest Microsoft Office Suite

Software guru Michael Cusumano, who is also professor of management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, hails the two 'Big Bang' events as "probably the end of an era".

This is in part due, he says, to the internal "trauma" induced by the software titan's travails with Vista. "Never again," Cusumano opines. "In future Microsoft will release less ambitious, and more frequent, updates to Windows."

David Smith, analyst at research firm Gartner, agrees. "With 'software as a service' - the industry's new mantra, referring to the way companies such as Google or deliver a service over the internet powered by software running on their own servers - a post-Vista Microsoft will refocus its efforts towards online services."

There is another factor unmentioned by these gurus.

The increasing reluctance both of large corporate users and SoHo businesses to compromise their daily commercial routines with new, expensive (and often initially unstable) software that requires a long-term learning curve.

Such considerations, however, do not deter Microsoft's team of hyping hucksters. Says Brad Goldberg, product manager for the Windows Client business: "We look at Vista as the platform for how the digital lifestyle will evolve."

Or - in plain English - software that is easier to use, supports high-definition video and is less vulnerable to security threats.

This in turn could trigger faster adoption of digital media, driving demand for everything from Microsoft's Xbox 360 games consoles to the new home servers that made their debut earlier this month at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show.

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff