Computer giant Microsoft has formally launched its online store concept to the world by opening its first online store for US customers.

While trial versions of online stores have been operating in Britain, Germany and South Korea for about five months, the US opening is seen as the beginning of Microsoft’s online push.

As well as software downloads of its popular programs, users can purchase products such as keyboards, mice and Xbox consoles.

“This is the first online store where you can purchase Microsoft products straight from the source,” a Microsoft announcement said.

The company has already offered programs and applications via downloads through its Windows Marketplace site, but on a much smaller scale. Marketplace will now be replaced by the Microsoft Store.

In a blog post, Microsoft senior program manager Trevin Chow said the move will help computer owners who do not own CD or DVD drives.

“In a world where lighter weight laptops, such as netbooks, are becoming more common, ESD (electronic software download) makes things easier when an optical drive isn’t easily accessible. By extending ESD to Microsoft software, we’re able to increase convenience across the board for a variety of customers.”

Chow also says the store will help reduce carbon emissions, saying, “think of the savings of gasoline in shipping products, driving back and forth in your car to a retail store, or even the plastic manufactured and used for the CD jewel cases”.

More online country stores will be launched in the next 12 months, although details are yet to be released.