On this day in 2009 — 10 years ago — Microsoft released its new Windows 7 operating system to the public. Less than three years after its unfavorable predecessor, Windows Vista, was released, it added support for touchscreen computers and brought new features like snapping windows, a new Superbar, and an updated file management system to PCs.
I don’t particularly remember a huge difference in user experience. In fact, I don’t think I actually upgraded my family’s Windows XP desktop. I also started using a Mac in 2008 when I went to college.
But one thing I do remember is the Windows 7 party my friend Matt held at his house.
Around the time Windows 7 was released, Microsoft developed an ingenious marketing campaign: it would encourage households to throw parties for its new operating system. The company gave out “party packs” containing a copy of the software along with goodies like Windows 7-themed napkins, balloons, and tote bags to users who were willing to participate and promote Windows 7 to their near and dear ones.
A Microsoft-commissioned party tutorial video (above) suggests that hosts “throw a party with Windows 7 as an honored guest,” and it encourages non-honorary guests to use the host’s computer to play around with features like Snap, Web Slices, or Windows.com/help.
The party I attended was not so effortlessly glamorous, but it was probably just as boring as those four adults described their parties to be. We were a bunch of teenagers hanging out at Matt’s parents’ house, and none of us were old enough to drink.
I don’t remember actually using Windows 7 at the party, and I don’t think I would have cared to. Matt always kept his desktop in the basement, anyhow, and apparently, we were all upstairs in his dining room. I do remember really liking the design of the tote bag, though, and I used it for many years after.
I don’t have any other memories of the party, which may speak to its boringness. I asked my friend Tom — who may or may not have attended — if he remembers going to the party. “I don’t think so. I remember he threw it though…maybe?”
Did this party even happen? While I’m reading about the Mandela effect, Tom texts me a link to the original album of photos on Matt’s Facebook page. Under the picture of the box of swag, Matt’s mother had commented: “Looks like a good time…but where are the people?”
There is a photo of a completed 72-piece Windows 7 puzzle. So that’s one thing we did. Another photo depicts my friends John and Danica and Matt’s brother Richard attending. But when I ask everyone in those pictures about the party, no one really remembers anything that happened.
So I asked my friend Matt to share what he remembers about the event he hosted.
How did you hear about the Windows 7 party campaign?
Almost certainly from a tech news podcast at the time. This Week in Tech, Buzz Out Loud, or Windows Weekly (if it was running at the time).
What did the party pack include?
A license for Windows 7, some Windows-colored balloons and streamers, a small puzzle, some tote bags, napkins, a deck of cards, possibly more.
Who went to the party?
A bunch of friends from high school. I was 20 at the time. Andrew, John, Danica, maybe Jon, maybe Dan?
Did you have anyone play games on your computer?
At that event? I don’t think so. Their idea was that you would demonstrate the Windows 7 install and features, but I don’t remember what we did. I doubt we used it more than me saying “here it is.”
Did you convince anyone to get Windows 7?
I doubt it. They were all probably going to be customers anyway. There was a lot of pain in using Vista at the time, and XP was getting old.
Did you use Windows 7?
Yeah, for many years. I used that license on a self-built desktop for years, and later after moving to OS X, I used that license with VMware for a few Windows applications I needed. I think I stopped using it when I made a new desktop in late 2016.
Was the party a success?
I guess so? People came over, and we shared some food and did some of the Microsoft activities like solving the puzzle. I think redoing it as an adult with alcohol or actual food and planning a better theme would make a better party.
Would you throw another operating system party?
In hindsight, this seems like such an absurd thing for any tech company to do, especially where they gave away a license to their flagship product. I love it, and I wish someone would do such an event again.