So we went to a Windows 7 House Party.
And you know what? It wasn’t anything like the video...
We’re currently in Microsoft’s home town, so it seemed churlish not to– and Microsoft’s PR chief, Frank Shaw, was hosting one in a pub down by the lake. There was going to be beer. Oh, and a touch screen PC. To be helpful, we brought along our latest Windows 7 test machine, the Dell XT2 touch tablet.
We carefully hid the fact that we navigated to the pub using CoPilot on an iPhone (a great little app, and one that’s been getting quite the workout on this trip), and wandered in to join the celebrations. There was a fair crowd there, including quite a few familiar faces from MS and from the world of tech journalism. There was also free beer – something that wasn’t mentioned in that infamous set of instructions but that we feel improves any party.
Actually, come to think of it, neither was holding your party in a pub. (And, ditto).
So we all stood around and nattered, and played with the touch screen PC. There’s something quite social about touch, and people spent plenty of time with Bing’s 3D maps of the Seattle area playing a game we call ‘you can see my house from here’. From what we saw, it looks as though touch is going to be one of the key selling points for Windows 7 – and if you’re selling it, having an HP Touch Smart around is going to help a lot. (It would have been even better if Frank’s machine had had the Touch Pack on, as we like setting light to paper boats without setting off fire alarms.)
Brian Hall from Windows Live was playing the house game on Bing (nice neighbourhood, Brian), so we sat down and – in the best tradition of any party – started airing some grievances. In this case Mary’s perennial desire to have the tags you apply to photos when you import them be matched against the tags you’ve already created, so save typing (and mistyping) plus some of the issues we’re seeing with Windows Live Essentials – especially with download pages that don’t distinguish between 32- and 64-bit versions of Windows when you’re installing the Live ID plugin for streaming music over the Internet in Media Player. Microsoft certainly needs to simplify things on its download sites, and needs to make sure that it delivers the right plug-in to the right OS version. We’d like to see a much simpler setup for the Live ID setup for media streaming, but Brian explained that Microsoft isn’t allowed to do tighter integration even though they offer the only identity provider so far. “It’ll be interesting to see which other identity providers do plugins,” he said.
About this point Frank pulled out his Zune HD and started showing off the interface (which is very slick) and the HD video (which looks good). That far inside a building HD radio doesn’t work so we couldn’t try it out (the Clearwire WiMAX was going rather more slowly than we’d expected too, thanks to the metal roof) but with its usual ‘third time’s the charm’ strategy, Microsoft seems to have got Zune HD right. And it’s finally coming to the UK; “soon” was all Frank would say, but we hear November. And for such a slim and light media player it’s pretty robust, as Mary discovered when she accidentally bounced it on the floor and Frank didn’t even flinch. That’s the party spirit!
No one played silly games (unless you count on the pub’s Xbox), and no one installed Windows 7 (though someone did bring along an XP netbook just in case...). It was just another geek pub meet, a tradition that’s been around as long as there’ve been computers and beer.
Maybe that’s what Microsoft’s marketing folk had in mind all along – they just choose the wrong company to organise the events. Getting geeks into pubs is a lot easier that running a Barbie house party or an ‘I can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Bake Sale (the two alternative house party offerings that caught our eye)!
And then we went to have dinner round the corner at Bings. It seemed appropriate.
--Simon and Mary