Windows Server 2003 is launched today, and I win the much-coveted chance to go and have Steve Ballmer yell at me by remote control. There is a predictable format to such things, and I look forward to finding out how the PR company, AugustOne, has misspelt my name on my badge. They -- and their ancestors, Text 100 -- always do. This time the PRs avoid the problem altogether by losing my registration completely. The launch itself follows the rules to the letter: "We've heard what you've said, and you won't get herds of happy Microsoft people with reams of PowerPoint slides!" said a happy Microsoft person in front of a PowerPoint slide, before introducing herds of happy Microsoft people with reams of PowerPoint slides. But there were some high spots. The great "Here's how easy it is to move a SAP database from 32-bit Windows to 64-bit Windows" live demonstration resulted in many awkward silences and a selection of error messages. Likewise, the live demonstration of distributed deployment -- see twenty-six servers instantaneously load Windows across the network! -- worked fine for twenty-four. And it was surely cruel to introduce Ken Maxwell, director of Business Critical Systems from HP, to the strains of the Fun Lovin' Criminals. Back came the happy Microsoftie, who tackled the thorny issue of security head-on. "With NT4, we never talked about hackers or viruses" -- yes, we know, muttered the hacks under their breath, and look what a mess you got into -- "but now we know we have to make our operating system... impenetrable!". And what to make of "We're betting the farm on open standards!" from Mark Greatorex, director of .Net development in Microsoft UK? The one reason I really wanted to go to the launch was to talk to someone about Microsoft not supporting open storage standards, but there was nobody there who had the answer. (They're getting back to me, as they have been for the past few weeks). It was all worth it in the end. I had a cracking talk with Rob Short, MS' kernel supreme, who was a Real Engineer and thus made sense, and then went back into the fray to get shouted at by Ballmer over the satellite link. Odd life.