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Windows 7: Microsoft Plays It Cool

If the hype Microsoft generated for Vista was a 200-piece brass band playing John Philip Sousa marches with baton twirlers in tow and fireworks going off overhead, then Redmond's attitude toward Windows 7 is something closer to the mood music for this entry, Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" (performed here in 1972 with the requisite earth-tone background and big-bow-tie tuxedos of the era).

They way we remember it -- and it wasn't that long ago -- Microsoft built anticipation for Vista with all the subtlety of Gallagher (remember him?) wielding a sledgehammer. Bill Gates made an ill-fated appearance on "The Daily Show" (which is still hilarious), Microsoft had some sort of huge launch party in New York City, and the sucker trade press (ahem) wrote article after article on the operating system that would make us all forget XP. That was followed, of course, by months of Microsoft telling us how great Vista was, how it really was selling in huge numbers despite the fact that nobody you knew was using it and how it would go rocketing past XP in market share any minute now. (Well, that's what we remember, anyway, so some of that stuff must have happened.) Then, of course, there was the infamous "Vista capable" lawsuit, which produced tons of hilarious internal Microsoft e-mails for our reading pleasure.

So, everything considered, the whole Vista thing didn't go so well. We suspect that Microsoft has learned from that, though, because we're sensing a different approach thus far with the build-up to Windows 7. Microsoft seems to be playing it much cooler (hence the "Take Five" mood music) with this OS release.

First of all, Windows 7 is a relatively pedestrian name -- in fact, it's not much more than a code name gone public. Vista, on the other hand, seemed to suggest the precipice of all computing off of which we'd look and see the future of technology, as scary as that thought is now. Beyond that, while it's very clear that Microsoft wants us to buy -- and partners to sell -- Windows 7, we're not getting that in-your-face feeling from Redmond this time around.

Take Bill Veghte's speech about Windows 7 this week. We could almost see him coolly shrug, take a sip of his martini and sink into his leather armchair as he told the crowd at the UBS Global Technology and Services Conference that the new OS would likely create only a modest bump in PC sales. Microsoft? Modest? A new OS? Did these three things really appear in the same story?

They did, and we're not saying that Veghte is wrong. Unfortunately, he's probably right, especially in (all together now) this economy. But just the fact that a Windows bigwig at Microsoft tried to play down expectations for the launch of an OS tells us that Redmond is approaching Windows 7's introduction with a lot more realism, sophistication and maybe even humility than it showed with Vista's introduction.

And given that Microsoft needs to win back some hearts and minds of customers (and of partners) post-Vista, that's probably a very sound approach. Hey, we like John Philip Sousa, but there's a time for "Stars and Stripes Forever" and a time for "Take Five." And right now, we prefer Dave Brubeck's offering to JP Sousa's. Apparently, Microsoft feels the same way.

What's your take on Windows 7 marketing? Are you having to reassure your customers about Microsoft? Is there buzz about the new OS? Reveal all at [email protected].

Posted by Lee Pender on June 10, 2009