It’s Unofficial: Windows 7 Gala Slated for NYC

Microsoft executives must not be superstitious, otherwise why would CEO Steve Ballmer choose the same city — New York — for the Windows 7 launch gala as the company did for Windows Vista?

Although the official invitations won’t go out for another week or two, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) started privately inviting a select group of VIPs to the affair this week — and, yes, it will be held in New York on October 22, according to sources close to software giant.

They’d better hope that it portends a better reception for Windows 7 than Windows Vista did when Microsoft launched it on January 29, 2007.

For one thing, Microsoft’s timing is much better this time around. Vista was so late to market that both the back to school and holiday sales were long past when Vista was finally available for sale at retail. That guaranteed a slow start to Vista’s ill-fated career. It didn’t help that Vista was Microsoft’s first major operating system update in five years — setting expectations perhaps unrealistically high.

Microsoft didn’t make that mistake this time. With a new management team, including Ballmer himself, shepherding Windows 7 through development and testing, the upgrade is right on schedule for release less than three years after its predecessor.

Last time, the press was treated to a ritzy lunch with then Microsoft chairman Bill Gates. The venue was a famed mid-town Italian restaurant, Cipriani on 42nd Street. Then they all marched a few blocks up the street to Times Square, amid acrobats braving the frigid temperatures to unfurl a huge Vista sign, for the actual launch itself at the MTV studios.

This time whether lunch or dinner will be provided is, as yet, unknown, as is the actual physical location. A Microsoft spokesperson declined to officially confirm that New York is the city again this time but pointedly didn’t deny it either. Additionally, an analyst who was verbally invited said the Big Apple was where he’s headed for the October 22 event.

Other media outlets have also reported that New York will be the ultimate venue.

Windows 7 set to deliver on Vista’s promise

Vista has hardly been a total bust for Microsoft, but the bar’s set pretty high when you’re the world’s biggest software company. It’s impossible to know how many units of Vista have actually been sold, since the company doesn’t break out sales of Vista from sales of XP, though Microsoft has mentioned the figure 180 million units.

Early on, however, Vista suffered from serious application compatibility problems, bugs, and performance issues, as well as a lack of device drivers, putting many users off and triggering a continuing wave of users purchasing new computers and “downgrading” them to XP. Large scale adoption by IT shops also never materialized.

Windows 7, which most reviewers have lauded as the OS that Vista was supposed to be, is widely expected to do what Microsoft had hoped Vista would do — kick off a buying binge among users who have been waiting for a viable replacement for the venerable XP and, now, Vista as well.

Plus, since it’s based on the Vista code base, it inherits the improvements in compatibility, performance, and bug fixes that have been made in Vista in the roughly two and a half years since its launch.

Microsoft has a history of launching major releases of Windows in New York. That was where its breakthrough release, Windows 3, was launched in May 1990, for instance. Microsoft also launched Windows XP in New York in November 2001.

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