Response to Microsoft Launch Is Low on Wow

This week's multi-million dollar push for the new Vista operating system left critics less than enthusiastic about the promotional events.

January 31, 2007, 12:00 AM EST

Marketing agency Maloney & Fox conceived of a live billboard performance to help launch Vista, and commissioned BongarBiz Acts & Entertainment Network and Grounded Aerial Dance Theater to make the performance happen.

As you’ve no doubt heard, Microsoft officially debuted its new Vista operating system Monday. C.E.O. Steve Balmer is calling this “the biggest product launch in Microsoft’s history,” and the New York festivities included a luncheon, an evening party, and a live promotion with gymnasts repelling (Target-style) down the side of a building.

“Awareness is not enough,” John B. Williams, general manager of Windows global communications, told Advertising Age about the estimated $500 million marketing push. “The goal for this campaign [is to] get at the heart of excitement.”

So how’d they do? While the live billboard performance made it to YouTube, the press-focused events left critics less than wowed.

Tech blog Gizmodo compared the launch party to “a PowerPoint presentation in the flesh” and called it “a bit of a snoozer.” (The site also offered readers a chance to win the gift bag: software, brochures, a Star Wars/Lego video game.)

New York magazine’s blog called the launch “a party for which we received more pre-event press materials and invitations than any event we’ve ever been to ever.” But after that aggressive push, the presence of “all the shrimp in the world inside” didn’t make up for having to wait outside in the cold for around 30 minutes. They also found the performance by Blink-182’s Tom DeLonge and his side project, Angels & Airwaves, “awful.”

With no real complaints about the launch’s trimmings, Ziff Davis’s Michael Miller still found himself underwelmed. “For the most important and most heavily hyped introduction of the year, I thought yesterday’s Windows Vista introduction was surprisingly low key,” he wrote after listening to Ballmer at the kickoff lunch and Bill Gates at the formal introduction later in the afternoon at the Nokia Theatre.

“Part of this may have to do with the way the product has been rolled out, with an announcement of the release to manufacturing, followed by the business intro in November, followed by a push at CES, and then yesterday’s events,” he wrote. “Techies and enthusiasts have been hearing about Vista for so long, and the roll-out has been so drawn out, that in some ways, the announcement felt a bit anti-climatic.”

His summation: “The theme of yesterday’s launch was ‘The Wow starts now.’ I just wish there had been a little more Wow.”

Posted 01.31.07

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