Or more correctly: The Jeff Putt Show
What you would do if you had to organise a product launch? How would you structure it? You’d probably get marketing to pump out a few of the pretty videos, crank the upbeat motivating soundtracks and speed through the nice photo slideshows.
But then, what would you focus on? Would you put the Managing Director of the company up first. Yes, you would. What would you have them talk about? Well, you’d make sure they mention how excited they are, and how thankful they are for the input of many of those in the audience who were involved in the beta program and RC releases. You’d probably note a few statistics with billions in them (there are 1.1B Windows users apparently). OK, ho hum so far. What next?
You’d probably fly one of the stars from corporate out and get them to present a bit as well. Perhaps talk about the approach you’ve taken developing the product and throw in a few more statistics. They’re probably not going to win over the crowd (even with corn syrup lines), but at least it shows you’re taking the event pretty seriously.
OK, so far so good – it’s looking like a professional event… but the crowd is probably going to be bored. What do you do?
You pull out a Jeff Putt
Yes, thank God you’ve got Jeff Putt up your sleeve. Within 30 seconds of taking the stage at this morning’s Windows 7 launch, Jeff has the crowd in the palm of is hand. Why? Because he’s geeky, believable, and jumps straight into the demos. Useful stuff. And pretty funny. Australians like self-deprecation and quiet confidence. And a bit of humour.
A few sound bytes from Jeff as he gets rolling:
Alt-Tab is a thing of the past
This is Windows Aero made useful (talking about Taskbar preview)
Sooner or later you’ve got leave the house… ahem hello to all our viewers on Ustream
The demos are good. Windows shake gets a few good laughs. Onto libraries and file management. Simple demos showing the benefits. Home networking, Media Centre, Remote media streaming, all good.
Then a demo of touch, including shake, right click, jump lists. And not just the simple stuff, inertia in the touch interface, multi-finger resizing, and the list goes on. It’s great stuff.
But no presentation of Windows is complete without discussion of the hardware, and for a minute I’m worried that we’ll lose Jeff as he hands over to a number of the partners to demo their new products running Windows 7 – starting with Acer. This is where I’d normally zone out (I’m not really a hardware guy) but thankfully Jeff stays on stage and keeps me awake, and then, hello! did someone mention 12 hour battery life. Yes, 12 hours on the Asus. But it gets better. Dell pops up to show one of their new products – was it called the Adamo?. It’s beautiful. HP are keen on the touch aspects of course (ie their TouchSmart machines have lead the market for the last 2+ years) and their devices are not only highly functional, but look very slick, enter… the HP Envy. Sony, are up next to demo the Vaio X series – it’s only as thick as the VGA port, and has an embedded 3G module. And their site mentions 14 hour battery life! And made from carbon fibre body – which Jeff stands on for a demo. Toshiba are up last, and their focus is on battery life also. 21 new notebooks, including one that boots up in 3 seconds. Yikes. Maybe hardware isn’t so bad after all…
Sadly, our Jeff time is coming to an end, and David McLean is the unlucky person who has to take over.
David does pretty well though and brings up two partners for a little chat. Deborah from Dick Smith, and Theo from Leader Computers. Amusing introductions and then a quick chat about the hype around Windows 7. Consumers are the focus here, even though business is well catered for. Deborah’s opinion is that touch, home networking and backup are key consumer interest items. It’s always good to mention a pain point (she suggest losing all your photos as a common anxiety) and then how Windows 7 is the solution. The discussion yawns into evolution and other guff – I think I heard connectivity mentioned – and how it was an exciting time. Sorry, trailing off…
Aside: It’s interesting to note how much Home group is mentioned. Personally I don’t think this is going to be a big thing for most ‘normal’ consumers (although it would be for power users of course). Instead, I think consumers just want something that works… And if it’s rock solid, simple to use, and has lower hardware requirements than it’s predecessor then all the better.
For example: When I personally talk about Windows 7 with people, I highlight that:
It just works! It’s beautiful to use, and it works.
There’s a few Windows ads shown – the ‘Windows Kevin’ is a classic, followed by the ‘I’m a PC and the chops are done’ moment. Love it.
Yay, Jeff Putt is back.
- Question time is on, and Dan Warne asks about Family Pack. Sorry, I got distracted and tuned out during the answer.
- A good question about Windows Security and whether the Windows advertising downplays the risks. Jeff mentions that consumers shouldn’t take their security advice from an advertisement. I hope I’m not mis-quoting him here, but I think his answer is less than ideal. In fact the Q+A time is the only part where Jeff doesn’t shine – as a host and presenter he’s wonderful, but there’s a few rough edges that need smoothing when it comes to taking questions from the gallery (more on this later).
- The inevitable question about what went wrong with Vista and what did they learn from that and fix in Windows 7. This is a gift question, because it will be a perceived reality in many customer’s minds and needs to be addressed. The answer is standard and James had pretty much covered it in his earlier presentation anyway.
- Next question: Why not include an email client in the Windows 7? Why make the Live Essentials suite a separate download (instead of providing it in the product). James DeBragga responds well with an explanation about the speed of innovation of the Live Essential separate from an O/S. Good answer, but most people are probably just thinking it’s so Microsoft doesn’t get caught in anti-trust cases or some such. Or perhaps so they can claim that the product is a smaller footprint than Vista. There’s a number of advantages for Microsoft of keeping it separate, but I suspect the advantages to customers is minimal. Retailers, we are told, have the option of bundling the extra packs (which is good!) but I’m still sceptical. The average mum and dad consumer uses the web browser, then the email client, and then probably some photo programs. Having it as a separate download is a bad call (in my opinion). At least having it as part of the install as an option would be better. But that’s just me, and chatting a few people afterwards I realise I’m in the minority (ie most people think keeping it separate is better).
- There’s a question about pricing. There’s a spin answer. It gets called out as BS from the audience. Yawn. There’s an ever-so-slightly heated (I’d have liked a bit more actually) retort from David – with lots of ‘facts’ mentioned. Pricing is always a sensitive topic, and rarely are you going to keep many people happy – everyone wants it cheaper right? I’ll move on.
- A well known journalist asks what’s in it for business? He’s laughed down because as Jeff explains this event is the Consumer Launch. Funny? Perhaps. But a bad call by Jeff. Making a joke of questions asked by the audience is not going to win anyone over.
For the record, here’s the invite I received. No mention of consumer here. The only clue would be if you knew/noted that James DeBragga is the Windows Consumer Product Marketing Manager.
So, a good question actually, but not one that is being focused on this morning (they’re having separate launches and PR events targeting business customers).
- A question about ‘offers’. Answer: stay tuned. Yawn.
- A question about netbooks. Yes, it’s getting a lot of focus.
- A question about music, video and home automation. Much was promised with Vista, but not much delivered. Answer: again, stay tuned. *crickets*
- Finally, a question about whether Microsoft Retail Stores would pop up in Australia. Answer: currently no plans, instead they are only focused on working with existing partners.
The event finishes on a down note – some of the final questions have given it a negative tone, and perhaps that’s why the closing motivating music gets pumped up (to compensate?).
Main lesson of the day. If you are organising big product launch, don’t end the event with a Q+A from the press. :-) Hindsight is easy of course, but perhaps saving some of the best demos for the end would have provided a better outcome.
I love Windows 7 and have been using it since the beta in January, so I’m definitely biased, but all in all I think this was a good event that highlighted the approach, features and benefits of Windows 7. Microsoft have been far more humble about their products in the last 12-24 months, and in place of the hype of yesteryear, we now have the quiet confidence of a vendor who is working extremely hard to produce top quality software for a more demanding than ever customer. I think they are doing well.
And finally, Jeff Putt is a master. If you are planning a product launch, or a wedding for that matter – he’s the man to run the show!
So, that’s how Microsoft launches a product. How would you do it?