As operating system launches go, Windows 7 has been pretty smooth. The reviews are mostly thumbs-up, and aside from some unintentionally hilarious videos promoting Windows 7 launch parties, Microsoft seems to have generally done things right.
Today, the Microsoft site is featuring a running series of tweets praising the new OS (though they're running at least a day behind - so much for real-time web search). They're also a bit too uniformly positive, so you know somebody's cherry picking. Still, it's a clever idea.
According to The New York Times' Media & Advertising blog, Microsoft is planning a series of 7-sec videos on YouTube and Windows.com extolling the virtues of Win 7, and a series of seven-word updates on American football games on the major broadcast networks in the US.
But here's my favorite gimmick: in Japan, Microsoft has convinced Burger King to sell a dish consisting of seven burgers stacked on top of each other like poker chips. That tower of bovine power is called the Windows 7 Whopper.
Thanks a billion
But the real Windows 7 Whopper is this claim: "1 billion = 7". That's the new mantra in Microsoft's adverts. The idea is that the billion people who use PCs were responsible for the new operating system, because Microsoft listens to its customers.
But if Microsoft were really listening to users, it wouldn't have continued to push the notion that Vista was the greatest thing since sliced bread when it was clear the thing was more like stinky cheese. If Microsoft is listening, it's selective listening at best.
What's more, as The New York Times' Stuart Elliott points out, the notion that Windows 7 was somehow an exception to the usual Microsoft product development process is essentially a lie.
Microsoft has always done extensive usability studies with every software product. And it has always resulted in Microsoft products being confusing and condescending at the same time.
(Are you sure you want to do that? Really? Are you really, really sure? OK then, just reboot and click Yes five more times. Oops, sorry - there was a fatal exception error. Here's some nonsense hexadecimal code to chew on.)
We're not the Borg (any more)
Again, though, it's a smart tactic to win back some of the folks who got disgusted with, or scared away by, Windows Vista: "We're listening to you. We care. We're not the Borg any more; if you look at us in the right lighting we're almost cuddly."
The question is, after more than 30 years of bluster, hype, deception, cluelessness, and an inexplicable lack of humility, has Microsoft really changed? Or has it just hired better marketing consultants?
(Memo to Microsoft fanboys: I haven't laid a finger on Windows 7 yet. This is not a review. Please save your poison pen emails for later if/when I do trash Win 7. But heck, it's got to be better than Vista, right?)