As is my custom with all parties, I arrived to the Win7 hoopla promptly at 10 a.m., ready to sample the wares: coffee, biscuits, and a whole lot of hardware. In fact, there were so many dozens of netbooks, TVs, gaming beasts, and weird in-between devices on display that you’d hardly know this was a Windows launch.
Also on display: the adorable five-year-old from the commercials, who Steve presented with a gift on-stage: not a copy of Windows 7, but a pink netbook. More hardware?
The presentation skimmed over some truly neat stuff: streamlined home networking for sharing media and printers; faster movie-making and multi-touch; and streaming video to other Windows-based devices, as demonstrated by Microsoft’s head of Windows marketing below.
Then came Ballmer’s version of “one more thing”: a curtain opened up opposite the stage behind the crowd, to reveal what looked like an entire Ikea showroom packed with computers and TVs. Steve walked through the crowd and joined another voluble Microsoftian, who walked him through about ten new pieces of hardware–everything from Dell’s new Adamo to Lenovo’s new netbooks to an Asus all-in-one. As Ballmer feigned surprise at all the futureworks, the audience, who had been seated to face the stage, not this surprise techno-Narnia, watched on big screens. Then it was announced that Windows 7 was on sale, and just like that, a new Windows era was christened. (Steve, ready to head behind the crowd for the hardware demo.)
But wait: where’s the software? Where’s the discussion of new applications, new development, or even a new UI? Microsoft showed off new Apple-reaction slogans on monitors all over the event: “I’m a PC” has become “I’m a Windows 7 PC.” But Windows isn’t like Apple, and shouldn’t try to be; they shouldn’t be spending my valuable party time on dozens of computers made by some other company. Microsoft’s job is making development easier so that new Windows 7 owners can buy fabulous applications that rival killer Mac apps like Delicious Library or Billings or Tweetie. Microsoft has proven with Windows Media Center that they can do fabulous development themselves, but in an app-crazed world, they’re going to need help from third parties, many of whom have diverted to more lucrative gigs like writing games for Xbox or apps for smartphones. For Windows to get back its mojo, it’s going to need a lot more that just fancy pink netbooks.