Finally it is here. Today marks the official consumer launch of Windows Vista and I was in the (surprisingly exclusive) crowd chosen to witness the Microsoft brass swooning.
The event itself was hosted at the British Library, a curious choice since paper and computers traditionally tend to be enemies not allies but MS events are curious affairs which – like any Hollywood blockbuster – work best when you sit back and relax rather than question too much.
Naturally, the event kicked off an hour late, during which time we were treated to a loop of recent Indie classics in a dimly lit auditorium. Eventually however the lights dimmed to camera challengingly low levels and we were greeted by Gordon Frazer, Microsoft UK’s MD. Gordon’s role was simple: to introduce Bill Gates.
Despite the Anglo-American technological divide which regularly means our ‘special relationship’ gets us delayed release dates and vastly increased prices, Willy G had chosen to grace London with his presence for the big day.
His message was a simple one: ‘The Digital Lifestyle’. In the five years and three months since Windows XP was dropped upon us Gates was keen to emphasise that computing is no longer centred around going online or going offline but instead about ‘being connected’. He – somewhat obviously – explained that our music, television, literature, news and politics is increasingly brought to us via the web and we now need to be online to get ahead. Furthermore, he was keen to stress the boundaries between traditional mediums will melt away so they can co-exist consequently symbolised by the British Library location (ahhhhh).
Sadly, the next hour was then spent discussing a co-project between Microsoft and the British Library to digitise its most important books – a worthy if surely secondary topic which you can read more about here. Bill was also then on his way.
What followed was a live acoustic set from ‘The Feeling’ – again nice, but nearly two hours had passed without a significant mention of either Vista or Office 2007. Some substance please?
When it did come – via David Weeks, Microsoft’s Windows Client Marketing Manager, we were informed Vista and Office would be demonstrated for FIFTEEN MINUTES. What we saw was an almost bullet pointed account of the new Aero interface (it is 3D, you can cycle through windows), show navigation using the integrated desktop search tool, treated to the creation of a picture slideshow and finally the formatting of a Word document using new preview tools. Not exactly thrilling, but that was our lot.
Thankfully, due to my news coverage on this site throughout the later years of both products’ developments, you already have a fair idea of what both packages contain and we’ll be posting you a monstrous review of Vista online in a few hours.
As for the rest of the (quite simply odd) presentation we witnessed Windows Business Client Group Director Cynthia Crossley and Windows Client Marketing Manager Simon Darby show us third party widgets ‘gadgets’.
These hailed from easyJet, Franklin Covey, Betfair, IMG, Universal Music, ITN and – once again – the British Library. Standout apps were easyJet’s flight search, pricing and booking system (prior to opening a browser) and Universal Music’s miniature player which pulled up the latest news and reviews from its label of artists as well as providing free streaming audio tracks and music videos. I’m sure we’ll be deluged by, literally, thousands of widget gadgets from other third party developers over the coming months.
And that was that. In sum it would’ve helped greatly if Microsoft had started by discussing Vista and Office 2007 before drowning us with incidentals and – ideally – spent more than 15 minutes walking us through something it spent five years building but that’s Microsoft product launches for you. As I said, better to sit back and just let it wash over you.
Incidentally, for the XP-ers amongst you Microsoft informed us that you’ll have until 2011 to switch over before platform support is dropped. I’d suggest that gives you plenty of time to wait for a few service packs…