Heard enough about Windows 95 yet?
Microsoft Corp. is shelling out tens of millions of dollars - from Seattle to Sydney, from Singapore to Stockholm - to promote today’s launch of Windows 95, its new operating system for personal computers.
The first copies were sold in Pacific Rim countries, because Thursday came sooner on the other side of the international dateline.
By early this morning, the much-ballyhooed software will be available in most every city big enough to have a computer store - and some that don’t.
“I think this is unprecedented in breadth and scope,” says industry analyst Rick Sherlund at Goldman Sachs. “It’s become a media extravaganza.”
The rollout, described by some as a worldwide party for Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, is certain to be entertaining.
The Windows logo will emblazon the Empire State building, a barge in Australia and a host of unlikely places in between.
Most Spokane computer and software dealers aren’t doing anything outrageous to tout the arrival of Windows 95. No one opened at midnight. No one’s painting logos outside. No one’s tattooing Bill Gates’ face on body parts.
But local dealers’ lack of enthusiasm doesn’t signify a lack of confidence, they say. Salespeople and support staffers here predict Windows 95 will be self-promoting. Consumers don’t need publicity glitz if the product speaks for itself, one local store owner said.
“Microsoft is geared up with tech supports and it’s going to be excellent for new users. People are just going to buy it, take it out of the box, install it and like it,” said Dave Meakin, co-owner of Abacus Computer Center.
But behind all this theorizing and media frenzy lies a serious question: Will Windows 95 be a success?
The hype has brought an enormous amount of attention to the product. But it also has raised expectations on Wall Street and among computer users to stratospheric levels.
“Some people are a bit nervous about whether Windows 95 will live up to some of the expectations set for it,” said Peter Rubicam, a software analyst at Dean Witter Reynolds Inc. in New York.
That makes this a high-stakes party for Gates, the world’s richest man.
In the 1990s stock market, it doesn’t matter if Microsoft sells a gazillion copies of Windows 95. If that’s less than Wall Street analysts projected, the company’s stock will fall.
Microsoft shares fell 1-7/16 to 97-7/8 Wednesday on trading of 6.94 million shares, indicating that at least some investors have doubts that the new software can meet projections.
Seven million to 9 million copies of Windows 95 are expected to be sold in the first week and 29 million by year-end, according to a forecast by market researcher Dataquest Inc.
Redmond-based Microsoft says about 20 percent of the 100 million users of the current version of Windows will switch to Windows 95 within a year because it simplifies personal computer tasks, such as typing and saving documents and doing calculations, by eliminating steps.
Consumers also are expected to buy new PCs, other software and equipment because most existing computers and software won’t work well with the more-advanced Windows 95, analysts said.
At least, that’s what local computer and software dealers are hoping for. Meakin predicted that Windows 95 will likely boost sales of hardware upgrades at Abacus within the next few weeks.
“We’ll start getting flooded soon with people who want to upgrade to Windows. That’s going to be our rush,” Meakin said.
But Meakin and others are betting that Windows 95 will be a success. If demand doesn’t live up to expectations, however, “the backlash could be fairly significant” for the $116 billion personal computer industry, said analyst Rob Enderle at Dataquest.
“It would depress the fourth quarter and a lot of the companies are depending very heavily on fourth-quarter revenues,” Enderle said.
Some technophiles in New Zealand and Australia were anxious to own the new software.
Crowds of home computer users were at computer stores at midnight to buy a copy of the program, which sells in the U.S. for $89.
“We are selling them as quickly as we can,” said Gerry Harvey, chairman of Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd., a chain of 43 retail stores in Australia. “The cash registers are going off their brain.”
Even so, the biggest PC buyers corporations - aren’t rushing to buy. Some of the largest companies in the U.S. - including Xerox Corp., Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and Whirlpool Corp. - will wait months before buying thousands of copies for their PCs, executives at the companies have said.
Some analysts and investors say Windows 95 will be the best selling computer program of all time.
The operating system will generate $1.8 billion in additional revenue for Microsoft in the next 17 months, said Shelton Swei, an analyst with Fred Alger Management in New York, which owns 400,000 Microsoft shares.
But the verdict on Windows 95 won’t be in until the initial wave of hype dies down.
“Reality sets in after tomorrow,” Rubicam of Dean Witter said.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: SOFTWARE GIANT PULLS OUT THE STOPS Having staked its future on the success of Windows 95, Microsoft Corp. is going to great lengths to lure buyers. Here are a couple of ways the company is promoting the newest upgrade to its operating system: Microsoft bought up today’s print run of The Times of London. The edition contains an advertising supplement from Microsoft. The paper was available free at newsstands and to home subscribers, The Times said. Microsoft paid an undisclosed amount to have New York’s 102-story Empire State Building bathed in the logo colors of its new Windows 95 software tonight. But the building’s spotlights can only accommodate three of the logo’s four colors - red, yellow and green. Blue will be left out. Lydia Ruth, public relations manager for the building, said it has not been lit by corporate colors previously. -From wire reports
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