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The Arsenal Stadium Mystery

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Comment Hmm. How to decide where to stage your biggest product launch, actually your only product launch as far as most people are concerned, for over five years.

Microsoft chose the Arsenal FC football stadium in North London for the UK business launch of Vista, Office 2007 and the new Exchange. Tick the boxes - much anticipated, looks great, so many more features including state of the art security, but takes up so much more real estate than the original and has been dogged by political interference from the start. Could be any stadium anywhere in the world.

And yes, that pretty much sums up things for Microsoft’s new big box of software.

The comparisons don’t stop there of course. The new Arsenal stadium sets 9,000 seats aside for premium ticket holders. A pair of tickets for the Diamond Club, a sort of all you can eat and watch for the uber fan, will set you back £100,000 for three years. Club level membership - the seats are leather and you have to pay for your own scoff, will set you back a sum comfortably into the four figures per year.

Vista’s got its own premium club, which will consist of people with the sort of graphics firepower you previously only worried about if you were really really into games. Only these VRAM freaks will be able to fully use Aero. You don’t have to have it of course. Vista will run on any decent PC bought in the last couple of years. Just not without the full interface. But Vista without Aero will surely be like getting to the game and finding the lunatic fan that likes to wear a red and white top hat is in the row in front of you.

The launch itself was something of an anticlimax. People in the UK just don’t drink as much coffee as the Americans, meaning the product evangelism comes across less “praise the lord” as “more tea vicar”. Anyone that really cares will have seen the product already, whether in beta or in demos. The Microsoft staffers seemed pleased that someone in Redmond has finally pressed the button, and now they can stop making excuses and just get on with flogging the thing.

Well, up to a point. Microsoft marketeers now have the problem of selling this whole new bag of tricks to the public, while telling them they can’t actually have it until the end of January. And yes, another, much more flamboyant launch is being planned. Maybe they can see if Wembley Stadium or the Millennium Dome is available. They both know a thing about big promises and long delays.®

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