My Windows 7 Launch Party Disaster, or How I Emailed Steve Ballmer Porn

By Commenter Gareth Langley on at

Back in the summer of ’69 (well, 2009), Windows 7 was launched, amid much fanfare. Microsoft, desperate to get things right in the wake of that god-awful Vista, got desperate with its marketing: it bribed people to have Windows 7 launch parties. Yes, parties. With Windows. This is the story of a survivor.

The premise of the Windows launch party was simple: nerdy geeks like myself would invite a bunch of friends round, Microsoft would send us a load of goodies, and then we’d have a Windows Install party.

There were a few problems with this plan, as you'd imagine. First, the type of nerdy geek-outs who didn’t drop dead laughing at the idea of a WINDOWS PARTY are not the sort of geeks who would have friends to invite to a party. More problematically, even if a group of people did manage to tear themselves away from IRC long enough to make it into the real world, they weren’t exactly going to cause much of a buzz in mainstream social media. I mean, we’re talking about a day and age when you could add people on MySpace non-ironically.

So at this point, you’re probably wondering: what the hell were you doing signing up for, honestly, the crappest social event of the season? Well, you see, a Windows 7 Launch Party host got a bunch of Windows 7 goodies: specifically, 10 brand-spanking-new copies of Windows 7. For an impoverished student, that’s a pretty big deal.

So, of course, as soon as I read about the Windows 7 launch parties, I went to the Microsoft website, and stuck myself down as a host. In order to do so, though, Microsoft wanted proof that it wasn't pissing its money down a gigantic black hole. You had to provide a 'guest list', with your unfortunate friend's email addresses, Windows Live profiles (ugh) and photos.

I didn't have any of that. Screw it, I didn't have any friends. So quick! To the internet!

Because my mate and I were doing this registration process at sometime after 1AM, with more alcohol and less common sense than advisable when filling out a form, we somehow thought setting up far-too-obvious spoof accounts would be a good idea. So, without further ado, we nailed down MySpace account and Hotmail email addresses for Mr William Anker, Jack Mayoff, Jen Attails, and the barely-believable Hugh G. Rection. Infantile pranks over, and with all conceivable hopes of being a "Windows 7 Launch host" scuppered, we passed out on the sofa, and that was that.

But jump forward three months, and what should turn up on my doorstep, but two giant cardboard boxes filled to the brim with Microsoft wares. Tearing down through them, I finally twigged that Microsoft, in its infinite generosity, had furnished me with all the trimmings for a twenty-man Windows 7 launch party.

There were Windows 7 mugs, Windows 7 carrier bags, Windows 7 playing cards, Windows 7 plates, napkins, balloons, even a giant twelve-foot Windows 7 tablecloth/tapestry of shame. Sadly, no Windows 7 booze. Digging down, though, I found the most important thing: ten copies of Windows 7 'Ultimate Signature Edition', in shiny gold cases, with both 32 and 64-bit versions, hand-signed by Steve Ballmer's personal signing robot.

Oh, and one other thing: ten t-shirts, with names printed on the back and a lovely Windows 7 logo on the front. Yep, someone, somewhere, had been completely taken in by the 'humour' of two drunk students, and printed 'Will Anker' on the back of a bunch of shirts.

Panicing slightly by this point, my partner-in-crime and I realised that we'd now actually have to throw a launch party -- see, Microsoft, in all their cunningness, had created 'hub pages' for the launch party in each country, and since we were apparently now the face of Windows 7 Launch parties in the UK, we reckoned we had to do something. Being the aforementioned alcoholic students we were (and basically still are), a party was in order.

The next night saw our student digs transformed: a table covered in laptops, bar stocked with Frosty Jack's (the price for our friends turning up to a night in spent fucking with computers), and what can only be described as a Satanic shrine to Windows 7 built up in the corner. By the flickering light of burning Windows 7 playing cards (ok, so by the flickering light of the dodgy strip light the landlord wouldn't fix), we got dressed up in our spectacularly NSFW t-shirts, and set about installing Windows.

This is where things started to go really wrong.

You see, the specific theme of our launch party, as dictated by Microsoft, was 'multimedia'. As well as general happy shots of happy people enjoying their happy Windows machines, we were meant to populate our Windows 7 Launch Party Hub with photos of everyone enjoying the media capabilities of Windows 7, or, in other words, watching videos.

Only, if you tell a bunch of inebriated male students to 'watch videos', there's only one type of internet streaming site they're going to visit. And it's not YouTube.

Worse, in my self-designated capacity as official photographer, I didn't really notice what was on everyone's screens, since I was too busy trying to not get the backs of their t-shirts in shot. The end result? A bunch of photos inadvertantly uploaded to our very public Windows 7 Launch Party Hub, certainly showing everyone enjoying Windows 7's multimedia-playing chops, but not really the sort of marketing Microsoft was looking for, I fear.

On the plus side, Windows 7 and the revamped Windows Media Player handled streaming FLVs pretty damn well.

I never heard anything more from Microsoft after that night. I noticed that the UK hub vanished pretty quickly -- certainly faster than anyone else's -- and we didn't make it into the highlights video it published. I don't know if Launch Parties worked elsewhere; maybe they set some social media site I've never heard of all abuzz in China, but it definitely wasn't a big hit in the UK. As far as I can see, all Microsoft managed to do in the UK is pay for a bunch of students to get pissed, call each other immature names and watch porn. Pretty accurate start for Windows 7, then.

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