Can Microsoft juggle three operating systems?

Microsoft's tricky balancing act in 2009 will be to phase out Windows XP while boosting demand for Windows Vista and building anticipation for Windows 7. Compounding this challenge is that Vista has been Microsoft's most embattled operating system, and though recent reports say that Vista has improved over the past year, there are also reports of a growing indifference from users.

Many are sticking with Windows XP for now (or even requesting to "downgrade" to XP with new computer purchases) with the hope that Windows 7 will be more nimble and efficient than Vista.

With the RTM release of Internet Explorer 8 and the possible release of Windows 7 happening in 2009, plus Microsoft's aggressive push into cloud computing with the Windows Azure operating system, the coming year looks to be a pivotal one for the software giant. Gartner analyst Michael Silver expects that Microsoft will try to differentiate Windows 7 from Vista by keeping ship date hype to a minimum and then delivering earlier than anticipated.

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