With the upcoming release of Windows Vista and Office 2007, Microsoft is launching a new type of packaging for the retail versions of these products and, going forward, its other software releases. The new packaging is similar to that used by Microsoft's Mac Office line, and features a hard, clamshell plastic container with simple graphics and design.

However, here's a detail you won't read about anywhere else: Microsoft designed the packaging to mimic the new high resolution icon style that the company will debut in the RTM (release to manufacturing, or "final") version of Windows Vista, now due by mid-November. These icons are marked by their organic shapes, bright colors, and translucency effects.

"Designed to be user-friendly, the new packaging is a small, hard, plastic container that [will] protect the software inside for life-long use," Microsoft product manager Nick White wrote in a blog posting announcing the packaging. "It provides a convenient and attractive place for you to permanently store both discs and documentation."

And here are some of those new Vista icons I've been talking about.