Microsoft Readies Launch Event Blitz For Vista, Office 2007

The events are aimed at preparing small-business customers and solution providers for the shipment of Microsoft's latest products, which are due for general release at the end of January.

The first U.S. launch event is scheduled to be held in New York on Jan. 16. The last one will be held on Microsoft's turf, in Seattle, on Feb. 26, according to channel sources.

Key launch events will be held in seven cities in January, including Phoenix (Jan. 17); Tampa, Fla. (Jan. 18); Boston (Jan. 24); Los Angeles (Jan. 26); Washington, D.C. (Jan. 30) and San Francisco (Jan. 30), according to documents viewed by CRN.

The remaining eight events will be held in February. They include launches in Minneapolis (Feb. 1); Chicago (Feb. 7); Atlanta (Feb. 8); Houston (Feb. 13); Detroit (Feb. 13); Philadelphia (Feb. 15); Dallas (Feb. 21) and Seattle (Feb 26).

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The Redmond, Wash., software company also will host Microsoft Across America launch events in 59 other U.S. cities in the same time frame, with the exception of events in Honolulu and Rockville, Md., on March 1.

Solution providers and system builders say Microsoft is offering sponsorship and exhibitor opportunities at the Ready For A New Day events. A Platinum sponsorship for all 15 cities costs $125,000, while the cost to sponsor key events in each city costs $5,000 or $7,000, depending on the location.

The cost to exhibit in the 15 key cities is either $2,000 or $3,000 depending on location. The cost to exhibit at the Microsoft Across America events ranges from $1,000 to $800.

Last month, Microsoft began hosting a 23-city tour with Intel called Ready 2 Rock, which is designed to educate partners about the benefits of running Vista and Office 2007 on Intel Core 2 Duo processors. The events run until Dec. 14, and the cost to participate is about $20 for those who preregister and $30 for on-site registrations.

One channel source scoffed at being charged for attendance. "It's a small amount, and they say they're trying to weed out those who are serious about business. But it's a little funny," said the source, who declined to be named.

Although Microsoft keeps beating the drum to the launch date, most VARs don't expect the Vista and Office 2007 business to start building in the channel until the second half of 2007. Still, there's no doubt that the products will present channel opportunities out of the gate, they said.

"In terms of service opportunities with Vista, there is certainly the deployment opportunity," said Michael Cocanower, president of IT Synergy, Phoenix. "However, SMBs traditionally deploy a new operating system with new hardware, so that won't happen all at once."

Yet a Minneapolis system builder said he expects the Microsoft products to drive new business at the get-go.

"It provides a shot in the arm for system builders for sales now. There are those that absolutely do not want Vista until an upgrade like a Service Pack 2 is shipped," said Joe Toste, vice president of marketing at Equus Computer Systems, Minneapolis. "I am pushing my Vista-capable SKUs that have better graphics, more CPU, more storage and high ASPs. This market needs a shot in the arm. The market is tied to Microsoft, whether it likes it or not."