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At Microsoft's Stores, a Lukewarm Welcome for Windows 10

GARDEN CITY, N.Y. -- Microsoft held its biggest launch event for an operating system two decades ago. Computer and electronics stores all over the world opened at midnight to mark the release of Windows 95, the desktop OS that ushered in the mainstream PC era.

That's a far cry from the events Microsoft has planned for Wednesday's release of Windows 10. Festivities have been scheduled for all 110 Microsoft Stores in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, with nine stores being picked for celebrity appearances. However, the events are decidedly more low-key and primarily virtual. In the early hours of Wednesday, at least, Windows 10's launch appears to be a non-event.

At the Best Buy Store in Westbury, N.Y., other than a few balloons and signs, it was business as usual. In fact, the sign in the front entrance flags the newest Apple MacBook, and the Surface Pro 3s still have Windows 8.1 running on them. A few machines do appear to have Windows 10 already loaded, but other than a few people browsing Best Buy's Microsoft department, there was no extra influx of customers.

At the Staples store next door, there was no one by the modest PC section, and the few systems that were turned on were also running Windows 8.1.

When I asked an employee at Micro Center, also in Westbury, why the store wasn't opening early for the Windows 10 launch, he said Microsoft prohibited the store from doing so. "They still call the shots and they want the focus to be on their stores," he said, but added that Micro Center has Windows 10-equipped machines ready to go.

At Roosevelt Field, one of the largest shopping malls in the country, Microsoft is showcasing an appearance by Abby Wambach, a member of the U.S. team that won the women's World Cup soccer championship this summer.

A line for passes for Wambach's 7 p.m. appearance -- and to take a look at Windows 10, of course  -- formed at 7 a.m. By the time I arrived around 9 a.m., there were about 100 people in line. I started asking people if they were there to check out Windows 10, but they all said they were there to see Wambach.

Another who was there asked me, "What is Windows 10?" With his two daughters in tow, he continued: "I'm a paper-and-pencil guy. I still look for payphones."

One person waiting on line said bluntly that he uses a Mac and was also just there to score some passes to see Wambach.

However, there was at least one person there who had an interest in Windows 10. Jimmy Solis is a New York City-based consultant to small businesses mostly with 10 to 20 employees. Solis said he's a Windows Insider and has been testing the technical preview since it was released in early October. Solis said he's impressed with the final build.

"It's good -- it's going to be like the new Windows 7," Solis said. "It's user-friendly, that's for sure. A lot of my clients have complained about Windows 8 but they've fixed all of its bugs." By bugs, he was referring to the design of the OS. Like any IT consultant, Solis said he's going to wait for the first set of patches before recommending any of his clients upgrade to Windows 10.

Scott Goeke, the store manager at the Microsoft Store in Roosevelt Field, spoke to me for about 20 minutes before the store opened. Goeke said he wasn't dismayed when I told him that the crowd was primarily there to see Wambach and not Windows 10.

"I'm fully expecting a great kickoff and think it will escalate this weekend," Goeke said. "People have been coming in for months asking about Windows 10."

Many customers had already dropped off their PCs to have the store take care of the free upgrade for them, according to Goeke. The store is offering free installations for those who can't or don't want to go through the process of the download.

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About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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