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WinXP London launch

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Windows XP kicked off in fine form at London's Royal Festival Hall this morning with much singing, dancing and loud music. Okay, well, maybe just loud music (think Madonna).

Team MS appears to have worn itself out a little in preparation for the global launch; while everything was super slick (and no system crashes to be seen), poor old Steve Ballmer looked a little, well, tired. Certainly not too much arm flapping, frenzied shouting or jumping up and down.

He did pretend not to be there at all initially, with the presentation starting off on a "live" video feed from his office in Redmond, but 30 seconds in he appeared from the rear of the audience. He must have been really tired because he couldn't seem to find the correct podium at first, wandering around the stage for a minute to locate himself (there was, of course, the grassy knoll and blue sky in the background).

Once going, he droned on, almost passively, about how fantastic Windows XP is, how it will change everything, how businesses and homes will love it... you get the idea. In his words: "It's a better Windows than Windows."

There were ramblings about speed, stability and other improvements before he started getting into something meatier, more specifically .NET and how it "will be integrated into the Windows platform, lawfully and legally."

He then said, with a grimace, that if customers were in the middle of a Windows 2000 rollout, then they should delay any XP implementation. But if not, "get it now... and run it on an Intel Pentium 4."

We love you Intel

Much ado was made about how much Microsoft and Intel love each other, with John Woodget, Intel's UK MD, the only other person (bar the master of ceremonies) allowed up on the stage, to give his twopence-worth.

Woodget trotted out a few amusing anecdotes (a favourite being about a magazine article saying that a Pentium processor would be fine for a server, but was perhaps too much for a desktop machine, which was then zipping along on a 486 platform).

Upon running out of stories, Woodget tried to convince everyone to buy a Pentium 4 processor. One could almost imagine his conference call with Craig Barrett earlier: "Just sell some damn P4s John, have you seen the figures for this quarter?"

He ended his spiel thus: "the two basic messages I am trying to put across are: plan for the future [buy P4s] and look at what Gartner recommends [buy P4s]."

We want demos

By this time, with the presentation already running for 90 minutes (main presentations interjected with video shots of other, slightly less important, Microsoft partners waxing lyrical about XP and how much they love it), the audience was baying for an actual product demo.

Ballmer & Co. passed the reins to a few product managers who had a fine time playing with various digital gizmos as they showed off photography and other features in XP.

One displayer (stuck in a box seat on the side) even had a clever sign stuck on the wall behind him saying: "Welcome to Tokyo" (and other places) in order to illustrate various things such as remote assistance, Instant Messenger and more.

Many features were highlighted, from editing a video and video conferencing to multiple-user login and encryption, as the product dude gambolled their way through the "cool new things included".

By this time, a few people around me had collapsed from presentation-fatigue, but most of the audience were well and truly impressed.

Reinforcing the well-and-truly-impressedness, a product manager quoted sundry eulogies from local papers and magazines - easy to obtain according to Microsoft's XP spin diary.

Proceedings were rounded off with a comparison of two desktops, one running XP and the other running Windows 95. as MS displayed its sense of humour.

"Harried ('95) user A" was shown the ropes by "Relaxed (XP) user B", learning how to make the desktop look pretty and uncluttered, watch swirling colours in media player and see just how bright, flashy and cool things now are.

No mention was made of the Office Paperclip.

Meanwhile, according to Microsoft's XP spin diary, Bill Gates cut the tape at Nasdaq, and is doing various television and radio performances as part of the official song and dance in New York. ®

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