From Times Square, Windows Vista launches around the world

In line for Vista launch event in Times SquareStood in line last night with other journalists, for admittance to Microsoft’s Windows Vista (and Office 2007) launch event. It was cold out, and major kudos to the people managing the lines, checking bags (security was pretty tight; bomb-sniffing dogs included) and looking up our names and passing out badges with their bare hands. Mine own fingers were nearly frozen to the point of frostbite by the time I got inside. Not kidding. So to you folks, thank you, again.

Inside we milled about a bit then gathered in the auditorium to listen to some live music before Bill Gates took the stage, talked a bit about Windows past and then present, showed some slides and videos, was joined on stage by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, some partner executives, and eventually one of the families that’s been beta testing Vista for two years. Their major suggestion/contribution: A burn-to-disc button in Vista’s new bundled photo application (which I like a lot). Nothing new about that since other programs, including Apple’s iPhoto (which I don’t like at all), have had that ability for years, but no need to dwell.

The family’s beta-kids all pressed a touch-screen button to officially launch Vista around the world, and on several screens we watched some pretty cool videos of the event in other countries. It was sort of like watching New Years Eve in Times Square on TV, when you see 12 o’clock ringing in in Sydney, Paris, and other locales.

Afterward I checked out Toshiba’s sweet little Portage R400 notebook/tablet PC with wireless dock (going to request one for a future review, here) and went to the bar to order a Manhattan.

 Oddly enough I couldn’t get one done right. Right, meaning, your basic Manhattan cocktail, with bourbon, bitters, and a little sweet vermouth, shaken and then served up with cherry. The first bartender made it with some brown spirit, I’m not sure what, but it wasn’t bourbon. He shook it up and served it in a wine glass. I tipped him, went to another bar, and ordered again. The second bartender got the bourbon right, mixed it in a shaker without ice, then poured it in a wine glass, no cherry. I tipped her as well.

Weird to be in the absolute epicenter of Manhattan yet no one could make the same-named cocktail for me. I discarded it, ordered a beer, and got in line to collect my schwag bag, which was filled with Windows Vista, Office 2007, a mouse pad, some memory keychains containing press materials, and an Xbox 360 controller for Vista.

I said hello to some fellow journalists, including CNET’s witty wordsmith, Dan Ackerman, told him and his pal Josh Goldman, of CrunchGear.com, about my Vista story for MSNBC.com, and then introduced myself to John Falcone, also of CNET, to say I’m a fan of his writing and video review dispatches. He said if the light was better I’d see him blush.

There was none of the enthusiasm that greets Steve Jobs when he gives one of his signature Apple keynotes, and I doubt people waited in line to buy Vista the moment it launched the way I expect Mac fans will when the next version of OS X, named Leopard, goes on sale.

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