Microsoft press events are curious beasts. You might think that a product launch is an unveiling, the revelation of something new to the world. Sometimes it is. But rarely, if ever, with Microsoft Windows.
There are plenty of good reasons for this. Microsoft has no competition here, so nothing to keep secret. Its biggest problem is its own installed base, the environment in which its products have to work - so it needs to test products in that environment as widely as possible before pronouncing them finished. Its corporate clients need to know the product roadmaps years in advance. For all of the above, most major Microsoft software is known about in some detail for a long time before launch.
This makes Windows launches an exercise in propaganda. Fair enough, and it certainly works (writes the man who flitted between four broadcast studios to talk about the V word on Tuesday). But why should journalists attend? It's not as if there's a real story there, or that you'll hear one iota of fact that you didn't know already. Nor will you get anything out of team MS
There are good reasons. Meeting other journalists at such events is a good way to catch up on that which you should know but didn't (we're a boastful lot, and can't keep a thing to ourselves), and to catch the mood. And there's always good colour - Bill Gates turning up late, in this case - which help enliven subsequent reports.
So I was disappointed not to be invited - not devastated, but the old proboscis was slightly disjointed. Be noble, I told myself bitterly, there's no reason Microsoft would care and it's not as if I'll miss anything. And if Microsoft chooses such a low-key event, there must be a message there - could it be that it would rather Vista had less than a rocket-like lift-off until it's had a chance to bed in? Should we really wait until the first service pack, or six months of other people's experience? Of course we should.
And then there's the small fact that if Microsoft had no launch event whatsoever, sales of Vista would be not one whit diminished. There won't be one user in ten who actually decided to buy Vista over anything else: company workers will get what's doled out, and home users will take what they're given at PC World.
In the light of that, a Redmond canape here or there counts for nothing.