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Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer has insisted that businesses moving to Windows 7 could save up to £100 per PC per year, in tight economic times.

Cost savings could be made from easier PC management in Windows 7, as well as simplified processes and better in-built security, he said at a customer event in London for the new operating system. The Microsoft chief however, declined a customer request to overhaul licensing.

Ballmer said businesses needed a “new efficiency”, where they used more effective IT systems within tighter cost constraints.

Early UK adopters of Windows 7, which is given a full UK release on 22 October, include airport authority BAA, car maker Aston Martin, BT, Camden Council and Warwickshire County Council.

Referring to complaints over Windows 7 predecessor Vista, Ballmer joked that he hoped the new operating system would be met with less “vibration” in the market than Windows 7, a comment that brought laughter from the audience.

He was asked by a customer if Microsoft would simplify its licensing terms, which the customer described as “complex”, with “lots of small print”, adding that “we can easily trip up on them”. The question raised a round of applause from other customers.

But while acknowledging the discontent over licensing, Ballmer said Microsoft would only tweak some points instead of overhauling the agreements.

“I don’t anticipate there being a round of simplifying licences," he said. "Usually when you do, something goes missing, people lose out on opportunities and on cost savings that have been deliberately built in.”

“We want simplification without price increase,” he added. “Last time we simplified licences, we overdid it and customer satisfaction fell.”

Separately, Ballmer also announced the new release of Windows Server 2008, which he insisted was “more cost effective than VMware”, and offered live migration to ensure business continuity.

He said he did not expect businesses to move virtualised infrastructure away from VMware, but rather to choose Windows for new environments: “Don’t rip and replace, because Windows Server gives you the tools to manage VMware.”

Microsoft detailed the release of Exchange Server 2010 as well, which Ballmer said offered simpler data protection and archiving, flexible storage and high availability, and a “rich experience” on PCs, phones and web browsers.