Today marks the beginning of Windows 8 and a new era for Microsoft, a company that has struggled to win over consumers' hearts in recent years. At a launch event in New York last night, Microsoft flexed its marketing muscles for all to see. From taking over the famous digital screens at Times Square, to rows and rows of outside areas with Windows 8 machines, Microsoft created what can only be described as an expensive spectacle.
A holiday pop-up store in the heart of Times Square proved to be the focal point for Microsoft's Surface and Windows 8 launch. The software giant let press, VIPs, and some customers lining up outside into the store ahead of a midnight debut to buy a Surface. Microsoft was only selling Surface devices here, but that didn't seem to stop the crowds and passers by from showing interest.
Inside, the software maker had kitted out every table with four Surface tablets, and Microsoft employes were happily fielding questions from potential customers. The atmosphere was filled with excitement and curiosity from those looking on and people lining up outside. Frankly, you could have easily mistaken this for an Apple launch day, but for Microsoft that probably wasn't a bad thing.
One of the big draws for Surface is the ability to use a unique Touch Cover keyboard, allowing the device to work as both a tablet and a laptop. The other aspect is the new user interface with a splash of color and an animated Start screen. With a back drop of Lives Tiles running on the giant digital displays at Times Square, people seemed impressed with Microsoft's square tiles approach. The interface is already prevalent on Windows Phones and the Xbox 360, and Microsoft is now pushing it mainstream across its desktop, laptop, and tablet PCs.
Will people buy Surface for Office?
Microsoft has mimicked Apple's retail stores in style and location, and the copycat approach appears to be working. I spoke to various people lining up last night. The vast majority were simply curious about Surface and wanted to play around with it, but some were buying one regardless. I spoke to one couple who remarked that they had held back on a tablet purchase due to a lack of Office. I thought nothing of it until I started speaking to more people. Perhaps surprisingly, Office was a big factor for people's interest in Surface with some mentioning that they couldn't live without it for work.
It's the honeymoon phase right now, but for Microsoft, being square is the new cool.