Microsoft Corp., CEO Steve Ballmer announced Wednesday evening the company will release a test version of Windows 7 on Friday to consumers, a product which he called the best version of Windows ever at the 2009 International Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas.

The new operating system uses much of the same technology as the previously much-maligned Windows Vista. However the new version promises to make PCs faster and easier to use. Its aim is also to allow users to install peripheral devices more easily and to have less irritating warnings and notifications. Ballmer pledged that Windows 7 will help laptop batteries to drain slower.

I believe Windows will remain at the center of people's technological solar system, Ballmer said at the Show on Wednesday evening. We're putting in all the right ingredients: simplicity, reliability and speed, and we're working hard to get it right and to get it ready, he said, according to the Associated Press.

Windows 7 will have touch-screen capability, side-by-side windows for comparison shopping and a special feature called Peek which makes open windows transparent, so that users can see the icons on their desktop. Microsoft's new operating system could be available for purchase on PCs within a year but the company is releasing a beta version of Windows 7, available for download beginning on Friday.

The world's largest software maker also unveiled a five-year partnership with Verizon Wireless to make its Live Search program the default search engine in all Verizon cell phones in the U.S. that have Internet access. Microsoft also announced a new version of its Ford Sync in-car technology.