January 30, 2007 4:26 AM PST

Vista's actual launch? Think whisper, not bang

NEW YORK--The actual New York City release of Microsoft's new Windows Vista operating system, at midnight on Tuesday, couldn't have been more different from the prelaunch events that filled up many a reporter's business and social calendars on Monday.

All day, Microsoft had presented an agenda of glitz, glamour, and unusual spectacles. There was a performance by aerial dancers forming the Vista and Office 2007 logos on the wall of a building; a press lunch hosted by Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer at the posh Cipriani restaurant (the sea bass was great, by the way); and finally, an official launch party at the Nokia Theater in Times Square that featured a live performance by the alternative-rock band Angels and Airwaves.

At CompUSA, 'Vista can wait'

But the launch itself was a quiet affair in a midtown CompUSA store (the chain had organized midnight events at several of its stores), where it seemed like there were just as many reporters and camera crews as there were customers hoping to take home a copy of Vista.

I arrived shortly before 10 p.m., when the store was slated to open, and as I walked from the Herald Square subway stop to the CompUSA on Fifth Avenue, I wondered whether there would actually be a line outside. There was: it barely rounded the corner, but there was still a line. I estimated that it probably consisted of about 60 people, far fewer than the thousand-plus gaming enthusiasts who had lined up for Sony's PlayStation 3 and Nintendo's Wii at their New York launches several months ago. But it was still a line.

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Vista: Now or never
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I spoke to the first group in the queue, three Australians who said they had to wait only for about an hour and were looking forward to trying out Vista. Ironically, in their home country, Microsoft's new operating system had already been on the shelves for hours, given the time zone difference. But while the trio was planning to stay until midnight and purchase Vista, that was the exception to the rule.

Ulterior motives
Because, as I learned shortly before the doors opened at 10, there was more to the late-night event at CompUSA than Windows Vista. The store had offered up a smattering of impressive deals on tech gear and peripherals--including Bluetooth headsets, webcams, printers and monitors--designed to complement to the Vista launch.

But it couldn't possibly have helped Microsoft's PR efforts, as it was quite clear that the majority of the people waiting in line were eager to capitalize on the slashed prices and had no real interest in Vista or Office 2007. There were Microsoft-hued balloons on the ceiling, and prominent displays for the new products out of Redmond, Wash., but most of the late-night customers at the store were completely blind to the decor as they dove for the specially priced gadgets. (Microsoft's Zune music player, by the way, was not among the specially priced items.)

"I'm just here for the discount," said a customer named Maureen as she walked out the door with a new 19-inch monitor. I asked her if she was planning to get Vista at a future date. "No, not yet," she answered. "I'm not an operating-system expert. Plus, it's the first generation." Maureen added that she wanted to see how Vista was received by buyers and experts before choosing to invest in it herself.

Another CompUSA deal-seeker, James, had a similar story. He'd purchased a Canon photo printer, which would cost him a total of $10 once he mailed in a rebate. "Vista can wait until I get a new computer," he said.

I talked to a handful of the customers leaving the store before midnight, and only one was really enthusiastic about Vista. This was a man named Joe, who had stocked up on DVD cases and a Bluetooth headset. "Got it already," he said with a grin as I asked him about whether he planned to purchase Vista in the future. As it turns out, Joe was one of the Vista beta testers who had been in attendance at the Times Square launch party earlier that day, and had consequently been rewarded with a free copy of the software. He said that pure curiosity had piqued his interest in Vista, and that he'd give the full version a whirl on his next day off from work.

Around 11 p.m., I ventured out to see if the scene was more lively at the Best Buy store several blocks farther north on Fifth Avenue. There were no launch festivities, as the store was closed, but employees were nevertheless hard at work putting giant Vista and Office displays in the windows.

By midnight, things were picking up at CompUSA--somewhat. The frenzied discount hunters were gone, replaced by a similar number of actual Vista buyers who had not waited in line before the store opening. (I should note that it was 20 degrees Fahrenheit, cold enough to make even the most warmly dressed of Microsoft fans reconsider waiting outside for more than five minutes.) It wasn't a particularly rowdy set, either--most of those present were middle-aged, the majority male, and one couple had even brought along a small dog that went by the name of Paris Hilton.

The first person in line, however, broke the mold: this was 20-year-old Sable Fields, a journalism student at the nearby New School who was buying a Hewlett-Packard laptop preloaded with Vista. "My boyfriend broke my old HP," she said with a laugh, and recounted how she'd gone to purchase a new one on Saturday but decided to wait a few days until she could have the new operating system. Despite the fact that her Vista interest was stimulated only when she realized she needed a new computer, Fields said that over the past few days she had grown genuinely excited about the operating system. "It looks so fun!" she squealed, talking about the new graphical interface and media-sharing capabilities.

I asked her what she was planning to do when she got home. "(I'll) plug this baby in," she responded, patting the box for her new laptop, "see if I get wireless, load some pictures on, everything."

The camera crews--and there were plenty of them--flocked around Fields as she made her purchase, and a few CompUSA employees were eager to catch a photo-op with the first New Yorker to buy Vista. But then she left the store, and the cameras backed off, and the atmosphere began to resemble an only slightly busier-than-usual day at CompUSA--albeit at midnight.

See more CNET content tagged:
CompUSA Inc., launch, Microsoft Windows Vista, store, Microsoft Office 2007


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Add your comment
Let the "turfing" begin.
Prediction: Lots and lots of posts with "WOW!" in them.
Posted by Norseman (1319 comments )
Reply Link Flag
My prediction: Every apple shill won't be able to resist adding their two cents. Over 70% of the posts will be from the 5% of the world that doesn't use windows.
Posted by Seaspray0 (9714 comments )
Link Flag
Can't wait to compare this with the iPhone launch :)
Can't wait to compare this with the iPhone launch :)
Posted by CentrOS (126 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Have to
... wait, since that won't be until June. :P

(Or much later, here in Europe.)
Posted by JadedGamer (207 comments )
Link Flag
this is a software..
not a gadget, I can assure you that the lines for iPhone will be nothing like the lines for XBox 360 or PS3
Posted by FutureGuy (742 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Different demographics.
Posted by Lee in San Diego (608 comments )
Link Flag
More like a whimper
What is funny about this is that the majority of people (IT professionals, hard core consumers) who want to see Vista already have it from either their MSDN subscription or consumer beta tests. The general public couldn't care less and even those consumers that have mild interest have been reading article after article telling them to wait a year for the bugs to be worked out.

This has to have Microsoft employees who worked on Vista whimpering in their cubes.
Posted by thenet411 (415 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yes, I immediately thought of the hollow men as well
Posted by gw188397 (45 comments )
Link Flag
Can't wait for next release of OS X
Now, that's an operating system.

I liked Office until the new one came out, no one here at work likes it at all, people are very frustrated with it and the older generation that uses (As Office cost $500+) refuse to use it, curse at it....

So if that's an indication, then I don't know, maybe at other companies, 21 year old buy all this expensive software, but not here.
Posted by RompStar_420 (772 comments )
Reply Link Flag
We will
We will probably be lined up early and it will stretch around the
Posted by Lee in San Diego (608 comments )
Link Flag
How come
Wasn't the current release just perfect?
I see...
Posted by herby67 (144 comments )
Link Flag
Look to be honest I was a beta tester for Microsoft and Windows Vista out of just pure curiosity. Yet I've grown to love this operating system! I've got much more control of the operational tasks inside the OS as well as control over programs. Yes it is in terms of features a lack luster showing for $400 but it does not lack in the performance department. With a more stable and effieient kernel to better more optimized code. To smarter file saving systems its just a better operating system. More over This comparision does not stop at Win XP but to MAC OSX which i've found in my 2 yrs of using it to be just as unstable in taxing applications such as Final Cut. To even simple applications like I-MOVIE!!! The plain fact is that MACs are not for those who like to tinker. But it is great for average home users and those who like Final cut but I don't. Just please don't listen to all the hype, yes wait and be patient for better deals to come out and Vista optimized software but try it out at least.. You won't be dissapointed
Posted by mproductions12 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Go read about the draconian licensing terms, WGA and DRM and then come back here and tell us how much control you have.
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
Link Flag
Operator Error
Obviously, you're just another M$ fanboy. Anyone who has used Final Cut professionally knows how stable Mac (not MAC, you gave yourself away right there) OSX is. There is no way the many thousands of editors would risk their *clients* on an unstable platform! This is why so many are converrting from Avid to FCP. You sound like either you don't use it or this is a case of 'operator error'.
Posted by pxlmvr (6 comments )
Link Flag
nice analysis
osX for those who want it to just work without tinkering

Vista for those who want to play games and tinker at least enough to tune the games

Linux for those who want to tinker with anything from the apearance down to programming code variables.

I'd say that's about right though I think I'm adding that third level on there.
Posted by jabbotts (492 comments )
Link Flag
who waits in line for a cheep apple knock off
Seriously, who is dumb enough to wait in line for a MS ripoff of Apple OSX from 2 years ago? Answer, The same moron who thinks that this release of Vista is not a beta version. All first gen Microsponge software is Beta and not worth the weight in fertilizer.

There is a reason Macs don't have virus attacks (and it has nothing to do with the "Market Share" that a lot of morons think is the reason). OSX is a unix based OS (10.5 will be taking that from "Unix Based" to "Unix Certified"). The same hackers who write virii runs some flavor of unix or linux, if they wrote a virus for a mac, it would infect their own system the moment they wrote it. Therefore, OSX will never have a true virus...

But Vista...lol, Well that is a pristine petre dish waiting to catch the slightest sneeze.
Posted by cre8tiv369 (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The herd the treads the tired trail to Microsoft?s slaughterhouse
That's who.
Posted by halesgarcia (29 comments )
Link Flag
Hardly Surprising
Most people who wanted Vista, myself included, have been using it for months at no cost. I have no plans to buy it until my Beta version expires!
Posted by Siegfried Schtauffen (269 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The poll's hardly fair....
They should have included "I'm sticking with Linux or switching soon" to go along with that option for Mac...
Posted by HandGlad2 (91 comments )
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