Yesterday's launch, at a Times Square hotel in New York City, featured Microsoft chairman Bill Gates and a host of political and entertainment figures, including New York Governor George Pataki, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, former Mayor Ed Koch and Regis Philbin, host of Who Wants to be a Millionaire.
While Koch appeared on a videotape everyone else was live, with Pataki starting things off at the CEO conference welcoming everyone and thanking Gates for holding the event in New York City. Guiliani also thanked Gates, not just for holding the event in New York but for the role Microsoft played in providing technology at the Ground Zero command center in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. Without the technology Microsoft provided, "New York wouldn't have been able to function," Guiliaini said.
The CEO conference featured representatives from major computer companies and computer retailers, from Compaq to Staples. Michael Dell from Dell Computer sat next to Gates. They discussed the launch of XP and its impact on the computer market.
The conference was followed by Gates' keynote. Gates stood alone on a dark stage at the beginning, discussing the importance of the launch, which he said was the biggest since Windows 95. He called the launch of XP (the name is derived from the word experience) "the end of the MS Dos era," with the new software no longer based on it. And he heralded the software's ability to provide a range functions usually not associated with operating systems, including real time communication, digital photos, music, video and mobile computing.
After bringing out a chief Microsoft engineer to discuss the development of the software, he introduced Regis Philbin. Philbin played the computer dummy, unable to even turn on a machine. Gates showed him how simple it is to use a computer to perform the range of functions now possible through XP.
Gates soon left the job of demonstrating the software to Philbin to an associate, then left the theater and headed out to Times Square, stopping at Starbucks Coffee and the Virgin Megastore, which have set up XP operations to be used in their stores. At Virgin, a tattoed shopper handed Gates a compact disc which he was able to play with the help of XP.
The audience at the launch saw Gates on Broadway, in clips reminiscent of David Letterman, who is frequently filmed on the same streets outside his studio. It was all part of the XP launch, a well choreographed event centered in New York, but going on around the world with more than 50 other events, including ceo Steve Ballmer in London and president Rick Belluzzo in Latin America.
It remains to be seen how successful XP will be, although Gates said there were hundreds of thousands of pre orders. The software is being introduced during an economic slowdown, with computers one of the products that have seen sales slides. But the late year launch is ideal for holiday sales, which should get it off to a fast start. "The economy is going through tough times, but the computer industry will continue to make efforts to boost the economy," Gates said.
After Gates' presentation the show ended, but the festivities continued at Bryant Park on 42nd St., where Sting performed a free concert that was attended by thousands.