by CIO Staff

Windows Vista Consumer Launch Represents Opportunity for Businesses

Jan 26, 20075 mins
Small and Medium BusinessWindows

On Jan. 30, Microsoft will release new versions of Windows and Office to the general public—and businesses will be able to profit from new functions of the software bought by their customers.

While businesses seem likely to show caution before adopting Windows Vista and Office 2007, which was released for them two months ago, consumers should be more of a pushover for Microsoft. The products are being preinstalled on the majority of PCs bought in stores (and let’s not forget the coupons allowing people to opt for those products that were supplied with PCs bought before Christmas). The worldwide release to the general public of these two new products will take place on Jan. 30 and, for the first time, it will be possible, initially in North America, to buy a Microsoft product by downloading it.

Businesses that target the general public with a software application, like a widget, will soon be able to benefit from new features in Vista and Office 2007. It’s probably too early to do the same thing with a vertical application, unless it’s an in-house application custom-developed for the applications it will work with.

French National Railway targets consumers with widget

The French National Railway Company (SNCF) decided to profit from the launch of Vista and Office 2007 to promote its services. The rail operator asked marketing agency FullSix to develop a widget for it around the theme “TGV and me,” to accompany its high-speed train brand, with the intention of developing widgets for other target markets later.

“Our widget will make it easier for our clients to access our services. The majority of connections to the website have only one purpose: to click on a link to a site with a more complex URL, like,” said Angelique Ferec of TGV’s sales and marketing department. “Our widget aims to make travel easier, and will centralize access to four websites:, Grands Voyageurs (a loyalty program), Info-Trafic and The key, for us, is to take advantage of the Vista launch, with Microsoft’s marketing strength, to get people talking about our services and to present ourselves as innovators.”

“The widget memorizes the user’s details and calls the Web service corresponding to their request [ticket booking, information about the loyalty program, or traffic information] via a hidden redirection page which queues requests in case of overload,” said Cyril Garnier, director of development for SNCF CRM Services. Microsoft has certified the widget (a free service that guarantees its quality and safety), and will distribute it through an online gallery of widgets. The TGV widget will also be available from a micro-site on

FullSix pitched the concept at the end of October 2006, and SNCF ordered the work two weeks later, for a total cost of 20,000 euros (US$25,940). The agency had to talk with developers at Microsoft to sort out the technical problems because the TGV widget is, today, the world’s only certified widget that calls on Web services.

“The widget is downloaded in the form of a 70KB container containing an XML description, some JavaScript functions, a few images and the custom style sheets. It’s very light because, unlike equivalents from Yahoo, Google or Apple, Vista’s widgets are based on components already installed by default in Vista,” said Alexandre Vannier, director of FullSix.

Using WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation) to build an expert system, an e-commerce site with more than a million product lines and 500,000 unique visitors each day, also wants to take advantage of Vista’s new features.

It is using features including WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation, the basis of Vista’s graphical interface) to develop new applications. WPF uses the XAML interface description language, a competitor of the Mozilla Foundation’s XUL.

“In parallel with the redesign of the website, we developed an interface based on Vista’s WPF to give surfers an innovative tool to help them choose technical products, which are still the hardest to sell online,” said Franck Leprou, director-general of the site.

The tool, which will be accessible only under Vista and XP (after installation of two modules), will allow comparisons based on multiple criteria, with the option of sorting results according to each criterion, a refinement that’s not possible on the site today. The application will also work offline, with the surfer able to download to the desktop a selection of products automatically updated next time the computer is connected.

On Jan. 30, the application will be available for the online PC department, and later for GPS devices, digital photography, portable music players and so on. In opting for WPF, benefited from Microsoft’s active support.

“Each company devoted three people to the development team,” said Leprou.

Development took four or five months. is also keeping an eye on Vista’s features, in order to win a place on the desktops of the store’s 1.8 million loyalty card holders and on those of the 2 million customers of the site.

Leprou imagines that, one day, sales offers could be transmitted directly to these little applications, based on the tastes of the surfer targeted. “But the use of these gadgets only makes sense if we manage to segment our customer database,” he said.

Leprou considers that developing the same widgets in Flash would have been much harder, with no guarantee of reaching the same level of functionality. The main obstacle for these innovations for now is the small number of Vista users.

By Bertrand Lemaire and Reynald Flechaux, Le Monde Informatique (France)

Related Link:

  • Microsoft Windows Vista: The OS Has Landed

Check out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.