Microsoft and me: my Windows 7 launch party

On Saturday my girlfriend and I hosted an official Windows 7 Launch Party. This might sound like an inappropriate way for an independent journalist to spend an evening; but, as I’ve noted before, the party agreement left hosts free to praise, deride or ignore the OS as they saw fit. So, just as a bit of fun, I thought: why not?

Picking a theme

As you may have heard, four party themes were on offer: “Family Friendly Fun”, “Media Mania”, “PhotoPalooza” and “Setting Up With Ease”. I picked the last, as it was the only one I could say with a straight face.

In the event, the only difference between the four turned out to be a little cardboard sign and a set of “Host Notes” — a long list of Windows 7 features for you to demonstrate to your guests. If you’re interested, you can (for now) still visit the official site, see the signs and download the Host Notes.

Needless to say, I ignored the notes. I did have a computer on display, cycling through all the crazy Windows 7 wallpapers, and this did inspire a few questions about the OS which I did my best to answer honestly.

But if I’d obeyed the Host Notes and attempted to walk my friends through the process of “searching for and locating programs and files” I rather suspect they’d all have quickly found urgent things to attend to in the kitchen. Microsoft’s idea of what happens when friends get together appears about as realistic as the notorious “Hosting Your Party” video.

The party mood

The truth is, most of my guests were less interested in the OS than in the organisation of the party itself. Was a Microsoft representative going to show up? (No.) Were they all going to get free copies of Windows 7? (No.) What exciting party materials had Microsoft sent to help the evening go with a bang?

W7-5To this last question, the answer was (as our editor Tim Danton discovered a few weeks ago) “a small selection of tat”. We put out the Windows-branded serviettes, jigsaw and standy-uppy cardboard thing, but frankly they contributed little to the party atmosphere. And though Tim never returned the poster to me, I doubt it would have helped much.

Happily, where Redmond had let us down, my girlfriend and guests stepped in, bringing the event to life with balloon clusters in Windows colours, Windows-themed cakes and an unforgettable Windows pizza. For my part I created and hosted a Windows 7 quiz, and a friend invented a surprisingly enjoyable Windows-themed drawing game. As a fun way to spend an evening it was, overall, an undoubted success.

The ghost at the feast

But was it a success for the party’s absent sponsor? I’m not sure. Probably the event raised awareness of Windows 7, but then most people will end up with Windows 7 on their next PC whether they’re aware of it or not.

And though Microsoft delivered on its promises, it still managed to come out of the whole affair looking rather mean. Someone in their PR department really should have considered how it looks when a company worth a quarter of a trillion dollars contributes less than the guests to its own launch party.

Free for all?

One simple way for Microsoft to have turned the situation around would have been to fulfil my guests’ (wholly predictable) hopes for free copies of Windows 7. Yes, that might have cost them some sales, but it would have given the parties a real buzz — and, I suspect, a lot more media attention. Who knows, equipped with their own copy of the new OS, party attendees might even have welcomed a demonstration of its interface and features.

Or, if that seemed too profligate, perhaps Microsoft could have provided just one or two extra copies of the software, for the host to give away as prizes or favours. Something, at any rate, to get the guests engaged with the OS and create some excitement.

But it’s apparent that, though Microsoft was happy to reap the publicity of the Windows 7 launch party programme, it wasn’t willing to invest in it. The sponsor, at length, was left looking like a freeloader.


I’m lucky enough to have good-humoured friends, and a creative and practical partner, and as I mentioned above we had a great night despite Microsoft’s minimal support.

But what will stay with me in particular was the end of the night when, as my guests gathered their coats, I handed out the Windows 7 goodie bags that had been included in the party pack.

Yes, Microsoft had sent bags — but, as I explained apologetically to my departing comrades, it hadn’t provided anything to go in them.

It was agreed that this was a fitting conclusion to my Windows 7 launch party.

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