MICROSOFT&rsquo;S long-awaited new operating system (OS) launched last night, as the software giant hoped to fend off competition from Google and mend a reputation damaged by the failures of Windows Vista.<br /><br />Analysts welcomed the arrival of Windows 7, which Microsoft executive Ashley Highfield dubbed &ldquo;the pivotal turning point&rdquo; for the firm.<br /><br />Julie Larson-Green, Microsoft vice-president of Windows Experience, claims that the new system is quicker and easier to use than its predecessors, and takes into account the changing way in which people interact with their data and applications. New features include easy viewing of multiple windows and touchscreen technology. <br /><br />The launch comes just three years after Microsoft&rsquo;s sixth operating system, Vista, which was attacked for being &ldquo;clunky&rdquo; and slowing down the PC&rsquo;s that it ran on. It also caused problems for users of &ldquo;netbooks&rdquo;, the small, inexpensive laptops that are mainly used for web access.<br /><br />&ldquo;Vista was a complete disappointment and there were many reasons not to upgrade,&rdquo; said Seymour Pierce analyst Derek Brown, who said Microsoft has &ldquo;scored a goal&rdquo; with the new OS. <br /><br />&ldquo;But what Microsoft have done with the Windows 7 interface is to catch up with Apple,&rdquo; he added. <br /><br />Windows 7 is designed to be more compatible with netbooks, allowing Microsoft to tap into a market which increasingly stores its data online rather than on the PC &ndash; or, in the &ldquo;cloud&rdquo; &ndash; an area into which Google has already made significant inroads with Google Apps.<br /><br />Google has also increased the pressure on its rival by announcing that it is building Chrome, an OS specifically designed for netbooks.