Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took the stage in New York Thursday, playing the role of chief salesman in a day of worldwide launch events, executive speechmaking and sales promotions meant to persuade consumers and businesses to migrate to Windows 7.
With characteristic high energy and in his booming voice, Ballmer evoked the Windows 7 marketing mantra of "simplicity" to a crowd of about 250 journalists and analysts in a Soho loft space.
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"At the end of the day, it's trying to make the everyday usage of the PC better in the way you want it to ... simpler, faster, more responsive, less busy."
The New York launch capped a day of similar events in cities including London, Beijing, Tokyo, Hamburg, and Munich.
Though the New York event space was festively decorated with green-tinged Windows 7 Launch Party display screens and had an area in back -- dramatically unveiled in the middle of Ballmer's keynote -- where store showroom-type environments were set up as rooms in a typical house, it was an uncharacteristically small venue and audience for a major Microsoft launch.
The relatively low-key launch fits the way Microsoft is characterizing the new OS -- feature-rich, but above all, straightforward to use.
The Vista OS, plagued by a variety of issues including hardware compatibility problems, slow performance, and annoying system alerts, was never embraced by the majority of Microsoft customers. The older Windows XP still is used by 72 percent of computer users, compared to 19 percent for Vista, according to the latest Market Share Report by Web-site software company Net Applications.
One crucial difference between the making of Windows 7 and Vista -- bringing in manufacturers very early in the development process to create metrics for testing -- began three years ago, stressed Microsoft and PC company officials at the launch.
"What's special about Windows 7 and the way it came together was ... an intense collaboration with hardware and peripheral makers, developers and customers around the world," Ballmer said.
"We engaged early, there was early testing with Microsoft, working on metrics ... taking a humble approach toward really nailing the fundamentals -- boot time, resume, suspend," said Michelle Pearcy, director of worldwide consumer marketing for Dell. The result is a product that is "fast, efficient and fun," she said.
Businesses have had a chance to be early adopters since August, so the hoopla accompanying the worldwide launch Thursday is mainly aimed at consumers, noted Tami Reller, chief financial officer and corporate vice president for the Windows Business Group.
Together with PC makers and retailers, Microsoft introduced a series of promotional offers called "7 Days of Windows 7" including deals on hardware, upgrades, support and other options, listed daily at Windows.com. On Thursday, for example, Microsoft and U.S. retailer Best Buy are offering a $1,199 Best Buy PC Home Makeover package that includes a Hewlett-Packard laptop, netbook, desktop and monitor with Windows 7, wireless home network with router and setup help.