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Windows Vista and Office 2007 were officially launched worldwide yesterday, a long day that started in the Far East and ended in New York. Many Israeli households participated in trial runs of the product that were conducted over the past few months.

Windows Vista and Office 2007 will be available in stores and on new computers, including in a Hebrew version. The basic version of the new operating system will be sold for NIS 1,299.

Microsoft Israel CEO Danny Yamin said that the new version includes protections aimed at reducing the number of pirated operating systems. It also includes improved firewall protection and a better embedded defense against malicious programs. More control is available over user authorizations, in order to limit unauthorized installations and even the use of Internet sites; backup activity has been upgraded; and pictures and movies can now be tagged, to enable searches by subject.

Office 2007 will be sold in three versions: "Home and Student," "Standard" and "Professional." The main innovation is the graphics and animation that has been added to the programs.

Its toolbar has also been updated to include more exposed options, instead of many options being buried beneath layers of menus. Nevertheless, the human interface continues to be awkward, despite substantial efforts to improve it.

Microsoft is also expected to launch its new Media Center system next month.