With New Yorkers currently bearing witness to the first of two days of Vista launch events, we down here in Oz have had a chance to catch a few Zs following the midnight release. Time to reflect on the good, the bad, and the nonsensical that comprised the late-night launches along the eastern seaboard of Australia.
ZDNet Australia headed to Harvey Norman's Alexandria store in Sydney at around 10:30pm last night, curious to see who would turn up to witness chairman Gerry Harvey and Microsoft managing director Tracey Fellows step behind the checkout and ring up the first copy of Vista Ultimate. Our expectations were modest -- while we understand the passionate devotion that might inspire hordes to descend upon the midnight launch for a new games console or long-hyped RPG title, the release of an operating system from Microsoft seemed unable to match the allure. With the hardcore Vista enthusiasts likely to have downloaded a beta copy of Vista long ago, would freebie peripherals, nibbles and the chance to buy a bit of Bill Gates-signed memorabilia entice anyone to make the trek to the ill-lit industrial suburb? In a word, yes.
Although we encountered a single-digit crowd upon arrival, numbers soon swelled significantly, with a steady flow of people fronting up to the store in the lead up to midnight. In the end, over a hundred punters roamed the store, with numbers enhanced significantly by a bunch of store employees, security staff and promotional people.
The much publicised chance to obtain a copy of Windows Ultimate signed by His Gatesness was the subject of some early consternation. Days earlier, some media reports erroneously stated that those who visited the Alexandria launch could enter a raffle, with the winner receiving the piece of memorabilia for nix. In fact, the "winner" still had to shell out for a version (any version, including upgrades) of Vista before getting their hands on the signed box. A small clarification, but one that suprised some who had hopes of picking the golden ticket and flogging the autographed item on eBay the next day.
So launch HQ, with the drawcards of free peripherals, hardware discounts, and Gerry Harvey doing the barrel draw, was more successful than anticipated. It was a different story in other parts of Sydney, however. While we were talking Aero and autographs with the Alexandria attendees, roving reporters posted to other Harvey Norman locations found themselves in the middle of Operation Tumbleweed. CNET.com.au's Jeremy Roche staked out the Broadway store from around 10:30pm until it opened for late-night trading, and encountered just one Vista purchaser. It was a similarly desolate scene at the Chatswood outlet, where CNET.com.au's Pam Carroll spent most of the night making small talk with store employees and security staff before calling it a night. The one customer she did encounter wasn't there to nab a fresh box of Vista -- he turned up in order to return a laptop.
During a pre-midnight chat with Rutland Smith, Harvey Norman's general manager for computers and communications, he voiced the view that the demand for Vista justified the opening of 44 stores in three states, but we wonder if it would have been preferable to focus efforts on one store per state and let the employees in the other 41 have a night of good old shut-eye.
All's quiet on the inner-western front: The Broadway store at opening time.