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Microsoft exec touts Windows 7's strength

In interview, Windows VP Tami Reller says there is strong consumer and business demand for Windows 7 and says that Microsoft is finally gaining on Apple.

Updated 3:45 p.m. PDT to note that while IDC figures have Apple losing share in the PC market last quarter, Gartner's preliminary figures have the Mac maker gaining share.

Windows 7 has been relatively well-received since its launch, but one of the key questions has been whether it will help Microsoft gain share against Apple, particularly in the U.S. consumer market. Microsoft says that last quarter's results show that is starting to happen.

"It was a key goal and a key accomplishment for the quarter...to gain share against Apple," Reller said. "Clearly we made some inroads with those key audiences."

Microsoft corporate VP Tami Reller, along with an assortment of Windows 7 PCs. Ina Fried/CNET

Overall, IDC reported the U.S. PC market grew 24 percent last quarter, with Apple's share at 6.4 percent, down from 7 percent a year earlier. However, Gartner's preliminary figures have Apple gaining share to 8 percent of the market as compared to 7.2 percent a year ago. And Apple noted in its earnings report that overall Mac shipments grew 33 percent year-over-year in the first quarter.

In any case, Windows 7 is clearly being adopted faster than Vista, with Microsoft touting that the operating system is running on 1 in 10 Internet-connected PCs worldwide.

On the business side, Reller said businesses are also starting their move to Windows 7, with the company's estimate that about 40 percent of enterprise customers are either in some kind of deployment stage or are doing a pilot program. If you add up the number that are "deeply evaluating" Windows 7, Reller said, the total number is more than 75 percent.

"We're clearly in a phase where IT professionals are looking at Windows 7 and making a decision on when and how," she said.

That's certainly a far different pace than Microsoft saw with Vista, which even now has been used on only a minority of business computers.

"There's still far more XP desktops in enterprise than Vista," Reller acknowledged.

I'll have much more from my interview with Reller in a post for Monday.