Windows 7 Launch: Microsoft’s Bet on a New OS

Steve Ballmer at Windows 7 Launch Party
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer speaks at today’s Windows 7 Launch Party in New York
Photo: Christopher Saunders

NEW YORK — Windows 7 may not be the seventh wonder of the world, but you’d be forgiven for thinking that if you attended the new operating system’s launch event Thursday morning in New York — during which Microsoft execs talked up all manner of enhancements offered by the software.

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer trotted out Windows 7 for the media gathered for the long-awaited successor for Windows Vista — and the replacement for Windows XP, which is still in wide use.

And while the event was a more intimate, lower-key affair than previous launches — with Ballmer himself less wildly energetic than as usual for such events — the company’s chief executive had plenty of positive words to say about the new system.

“I’m an enthusiastic personality, I think — I get a little fired up about things, and I’ll tell you, there’s not much that gets me more fired up than the chance to start selling, delivering and letting customers enjoy Windows 7.”

“So today I get to say that not only am I Steve Ballmer and I’m a PC” — a reference to Windows’ advertising campaign tagline — “but I’m Steve Ballmer, and I’m a Windows 7 PC, effective immediately.”

Ballmer said that Windows 7 is available in 45,000 stores worldwide, on new PCs and in upgrades. “It’s just out there for all to start hopefully appreciate and enjoy as much as our eight million beta testers have done.”

Additionally, the company didn’t shy away from highlighting the number of superlatives involved in bringing Windows 7 to market. For instance, while New York was the central launch event hosted by the company’s CEO, senior Microsoft executives hosted launch events in 14 other world cities. That’s a first.

Other superlatives cited by Ballmer included the eight million participants in the beta testing of Windows 7 in 113 countries: “You had teachers, small business owners, soccer moms. You had people stretching, if you will, from grandparents to gamers, people stretching from Australia to Iceland — across the planet — feedback coming in from people in all walks of life, really helping us think about and improve and make Windows 7 and Windows 7 PCs what our customers, I think, will really, really want.”

“Windows 7 … really came about from an intense collaboration between our own engineering organization and our partners, a group of about 50,000 partners, software vendors, hardware vendors, peripheral vendors, and our customers,” he added. “Whether it’s all of the data that we get back from customers about how they’re using Windows and what they’d like to see different and improved, whether it’s the feedback we got from the 8 million beta test customers, all of that came together in a very unique blend.”

That blend, he said, is “what’s special about Windows 7 and the way it came together and why I think we have a little extra special secret sauce somehow in the making of Windows 7.”

During the launch presentation, Brad Brooks, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for Windows consumer marketing and product management, demonstrated’s free Kindle e-reader for Windows 7 PCs, which will be released for beta test next month.

And he showed off a wide array of new PCs from all the major vendors in a wide range of form factors and designs.

Microsoft's Brad Brooks demos at Windows 7 Launch Party
Microsoft’s Brad Brooks demos the new Amazon e-reader during the Windows 7 Launch Party
Photo: Christopher Saunders

In one demonstration, he streamed video from a single Windows 7 PC to 16 different devices at once — ranging from tiny notebooks to large, Windows-compatible flat-screen TVs.

“I’ve got 16 different [video streams] going through the home,” he said. “Now, that’s one big home, but it just starts to show what’s now possible with the power, the performance, the incredible capability that’s built into Windows 7.”

Brooks also spent a significant amount of time demoing Windows 7’s multitouch abilities and its automated home network configuration features.

“Windows 7 really does simplify your PC by making everyday tasks easier, making it work the way you want it to and expect it to, and making a few new things possible,” he said.

Next page: A focus on hardware — and will it sell?

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Windows 7 and hardware — and making the sale

 Microsoft's Steve Ballmer and Mike Angiulo
Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer and Mike Angiulo demo new Windows 7 systems at today’s Launch Party. Photo: Christopher Saunders
Click to enlarge.

Later during the presentation, Mike Angiulo, general manager of planning and PC ecosystems at Microsoft, demonstrated dozens more new and upcoming PC designs that showcased Windows 7 media-sharing and graphics capabilities and performance.

That Microsoft execs spent a good deal of their time focusing on hardware during the launch isn’t surprising. Companies ranging from Dell and Intel to tiny system integrators and specialized component makers are betting that the new OS will result in new hardware purchases.

That makes selling consumers and IT buyers on the idea of upgrading to a new Windows 7 system critical — not just for Microsoft, but for the industry at large.

“This year 300 million or so PCs will be sold — 300 million,” Ballmer said. “It’s really quite stunning. And I think the key to the PC, and … the Windows PC success, is the fact that there is simply more you can do with these systems.”

“When Bill Gates and Paul Allen started Microsoft, they talked about a computer on every desk and in every home,” he added. “Today, I think we could say we have computers that are for every room, for every scenario and for every person in every facet, if you will, of their lives. And that is enabled by the launch not only of Windows 7, but of new Windows 7 personal computers.”

One major question is whether the excitement will last past the initial promotions and advertising blitz. That didn’t happen with Vista and that was partly what doomed it.

The good news is that analysts and pollsters say the numbers favor Microsoft and its hardware partners this time around. Recent surveys show pent-up demand for the new system among both consumer and IT constituencies.

In the meantime, Microsoft is concentrating on snapping IT buyers and consumers to action. Along with today’s festivities around the world, Microsoft CFO Chris Liddell this morning remotely rang the NASDAQ opening bell from the company’s campus in Redmond, Wash. — signaling the start of Windows 7’s trading as well.

Ringing the NASDAQ opening bell is significant for another reason, too: Microsoft will announce revenues and earnings for its first quarter of fiscal 2010 tomorrow morning before the stock markets open.

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