Microsoft CEO Ballmer Launches Windows 7 In New York

By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2009-10-22

Microsoft CEO Ballmer Launches Windows 7 In New York

NEW YORK - Windows 7 is here.

After years of development and months of marketing buildup on the part of Microsoft, the operating system makes its debut for general release in a high-profile event at New York City headlined by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

The event began with the auditorium's oversized screens displaying several ads from Microsoft's Windows 7 campaign, including one of the "Laptop Hunter" television advertisements from earlier in 2009. Then Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took the stage.

Other launch events took place at locations around the world, including Redmond, Tokyo and Munich.

 "I'm an enthusiastic personality," Ballmer said, after a typically bombastic launch onto the stage. "Today I get to say not only that I'm Steve Ballmer and I'm a PC, but that I'm Steve Ballmer and I'm a Windows 7 PC, effective immediately."

Windows 7, Ballmer asserted, was created to make the PC experience "simpler and faster."

The "secret sauce" in Windows 7's creation, Ballmer added, included the engineers, partners and customers who provided a feedback loop for refining the product. "All of that came together in a very unique way," he said.

Ballmer talked about Microsoft's "three screens and a cloud" strategy, a vision that includes users interacting with Windows 7 across multiple devices, including smartphones, televisions and the traditional PC.

He then introduced Brad Brooks, corporate vice president of Windows Consumer Marketing and Product Management at Microsoft, to show off exactly how a Windows 7 interface would run on a high-definition television and allow for content on demand. Brooks announced Netflix and CBS as partners on the television side of the equation.

Microsoft announced a partnership with to port Kindle content onto devices running Windows 7. Brooks showed off how Windows 7, equipped with a touch-screen capability, allows users to zoom into and resize text on the fly. 

The cloud-based strategy comes into play with additional Windows 7 features, such as HomeGroup, which lets devices such as printers be plugged into a home network-and, presumably, a small business network-"with no additional setup." Using a Windows Live ID, users can connect with their PC's content through their laptop; Brooks demonstrated this particular feature by accessing his computer in Redmond from the computer onstage.

Using his PC, Brooks showed how Windows 7 powered the ability to send media-including high-definition pictures and music-to various screens throughout a house network. "Let's fire them all off one Windows 7 PC," he said, as the screens behind him flashed with images and pounded with music. Although marketed for home use, the SMB (small- to medium-sized business) use is readily apparent.

"That only used 54 percent of our available resources," Brooks said, as four screens ran high-processing content.

Ballmer then took the stage again.

"The key for the popularity of Windows-and Windows is very popular-this year, around 300 million PCs will be sold," Ballmer said. "And the keys to the Windows PC success is there's more you can do with these systems," including operate everything from the new Hulu application to business software.

"You see the same thing in the diversity of peripherals," Ballmer added, again playing into Microsoft's theme of promoting its closeness with its partners in this particular venture. He then rattled off the various PCs currently running Windows 7.

"The netbook, really launched and invented over the past 12 months, are Windows PCs. The ultra-thin, the traditional notebook, the desktop, and the all-in-one style of PC that Brad showed, which I think is perfect in the kitchen," said Ballmer.

"When Bill Gates and Paul Allen started Microsoft, they talked about a computer on every desk," Ballmer continued. "Today we have a computer for every room" and "every facet" of peoples' lives.

No Fear from Microsoft


Publicly, Microsoft is exhibiting a decided lack of fear about the changed operating-system landscape since Windows Vista and XP made their debut. Apple and its Mac OS X has increased its market-share in the consumer space over the past three years since Vista's debut, and Google has caused rumblings lately with its Android OS-which primarily runs on devices with smaller form-factors, such as smartphones-and the long-rumored Chrome OS that will supposedly be ported onto netbooks later in 2010.

"Apple is a fine company," Ballmer said hours before the launch on the "Today Show," insisting that Windows would continue to run on "nine out of 10" computers in the United States heading into the future.

Despite that, and the hoopla surrounding this launch, Microsoft has been taking care in recent weeks to downplay the possible effect of Windows 7 on the overall PC market. In comments delivered during a news conference in Munich, Germany at the beginning of October, Ballmer said that a surge of PC sales accompanying the operating system launch "will probably not be huge." He also hinted that the overall tech sector would need some time to recover to its former sales levels in the aftermath of an economic recession.

That recession had not been kind to Microsoft, forcing it to report a 17 percent decline in year-over-year revenue for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2009. Earnings came in at $13.10 billion, around $1 billion below Wall Street Estimates. Microsoft will announce its next quarter's earnings on Oct. 23, but the release of Windows 7 may have come too late to mitigate what may also be a down report.

Much of the success or failure of Windows 7 will rest on the operating system's ability to appeal to businesses. Leaving nothing to chance, Microsoft has taken steps to at least put their baby in front of as many eyeballs as possible even taking the step of offering Windows 7 Enterprise in a free 90-day trial edition.

Some 80 percent of all commercial PCs continue to use Windows XP, according to a report by research firm Forrester. Although a number of businesses may be disinclined to upgrade to Windows 7 immediately, due to the pressures of stripped IT budgets, analysts suggest that the prospect of support ending for Windows XP Service Packs 2 and 3 in April 2014 will drive many enterprises and SMBs (small- to medium-sized businesses) that use Microsoft to upgrade to Windows 7.

Research firm Gartner, in an Oct. 13 presentation, suggested that the ending of XP support by independent software vendors (ISVs) will start around the end of 2011, creating an "XP danger zone" by the end of 2012.

Substantial changes in driver and security models, as well as other APIs, between Windows XP and Windows 7 have made the upgrading between those operating systems a more disruptive process than the jump between Windows XP and Windows Vista. Microsoft introduced a Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor in an attempt to help users make the transition on older machines.

Windows XP Mode, a feature of certain editions of Windows 7 that runs XP-based applications in a virtual environment, has been introduced to help businesses running older programs transition more smoothly onto the new platform. Users will be able to access applications running in Windows XP Mode through the Windows 7 task bar by right-clicking.

"There's never been more hardware capable of running a new OS," Mark Relph, senior director of the Windows Ecosystem Team, said in a media pre-briefing before the Windows 7 launch. "The compatibility side of things was so important this time around. The universe of products and systems has never been this big for us."

Microsoft can take hope in data produced by a number of research firms over the past few weeks, suggesting that Windows 7 will drive a generalized tech refresh through 2010. Until the sales numbers come back, though, it is likely too soon to tell whether Microsoft has escaped entirely from the shadow of the recession and the ghost of Windows Vista.

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