7 biggest and barmiest tech launches
22nd Oct 2009 | 12:00
Glamorous locations, celebs and big wads of cash
Microsoft, Gizmondo and Apple
Despite spending hundreds of millions on promoting the idea of Windows last year, this week's Windows 7 UK launch was a less-than ostentatious affair for Microsoft.
Instead, the computer giant let the software speak for itself rather than popping the champagne corks, gathering up the celebrities and abseiling down Big Ben shouting to the world about the virtues of Windows 7.
It never used to be like this, and as part of our Windows 7 Week series of posts, TechRadar celebrates the launch of Windows 7 in its own little way by showcasing seven of the biggest and barmiest tech launches of recent times.
And what better place to start than the launch of Windows 95…
Microsoft Windows 95 (1995)
Given that the operating system was three years in the making, Microsoft had a lot of time to planning just how to unveil the OS to the world.
In the end the company decided to spend circa $300 million promoting the product – the same amount it spent roping in Jerry Seinfeld for its bizarre Windows promos last year.
The money went a long way, with up to $14 million paid (although this may have been a figure made up by the group to inflate its prices) to the Rolling Stones for use of the group's 1981 song Start Me Up and a bucket load of cash used to rope in two of the biggest TV stars of the time, Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry, to star in a 30-minute 'cyber sit-com' to promote the system.
Other promotional goodies included giving away 1.5 million copies of the Times newspaper (complete with Windows 95 advertising), a 300-foot banner which was draped over Toronto's CN tower, and the Empire State Building lit up with the primary colours of Windows 95 logo.
It's fair to say, the message got through with the OS becoming the most successful ever produced.
The best script-writers in Hollywood couldn't have written the story of the ill-fated Gizmondo handheld console any better. A yarn populated with criminals, fast cars, celebrities and mountains of money, nobody could have visualised how much trouble the company was in when it launched the handheld in Europe back in mid-2005.
London's exclusive Park Lane Hotel was hired out for the event. Celebrities including Dannii Minogue turned up to quaff the free champagne, while the likes of Sting, Busta Rhymes and Pharrell Williams performed.
And models turned up in droves – mainly due to the fact that Gizmondo owned 75 per cent interest in modeling agency Isis. The launch to end all launches ended up being the last time the Gizmondo brand was celebrated. Less than year later the company had folded, taking with it the $400 million that was pumped in to make the console a success.
Apple Macintosh (1984)
The birth of the Macintosh was always going to be a big one for Apple, given its need for a hit after the ill-fated Apple III and Lisa projects.
Apple decided that a mammoth marketing campaign was on the cards to show off its first PC. And why not, it was an insanely powerful machine boasting 128KB DRAM memory, 64KB ROM and a 9-inch CRT.
Taking the year the computer was released literally, Apple roped in director Ridley Scott. Fresh from Blade Runner, the company asked him to create a dystopian future for its 1984-inspired advert.
The advert aired during Super Bowl XVIII, the world's biggest ad slot, cost $1.5 million and set the benchmark for tech launches to come.
Not only that, Apple decided to take out a $2.5 million ad campaign in Newsweek buying up all advertising pages of the magazine.
Impressive. Most impressive.
Sony, Nintendo, Apple and Halo
Sony Alpha DSLR camera range (2009)
Sony may not have spent anywhere near the amount of money Microsoft and Apple has for its campaigns but for sheer logistics, the Sony Alpha range Twilight Football campaign needs a special mention.
To promote the low-light capabilities of its Alpha range Sony had seven countries around the world (UK, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Argentina, Australia and South Africa) play host to seven games of football – all of which were played in the hours leading up to twilight.
Each of the venues were chosen for their picturesque backdrop (this was for a camera, mind) which meant games were played in remote locations like the Pinnacles Dessert in Australia and Iguazu Falls in Argentina. And each team that played was chosen from thousands of entries, with the winners keeping a diary of the event.
Sony has called it one of the most ambitious projects the company has undertaken. And bearing in mind the logistics of the whole thing, we would have to agree.
Nintendo Wii (2006)
Nintendo knew it had to fight hard to compete with Sony and Microsoft in the battle for games console domination. But instead of trying to beat the next-gen capabilities of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, it chose a different tack – go for a more family friendly market. To do this the company needed not just a big marketing campaign but a clever one too.
Nintendo put aside $200 million for the promotion of the Wii – more money than the company had ever put behind any of its products.
They invested 80 per cent of this money into targeting the adult market (not that sort of 'adult') and created a number of ad spots which were directed by the Oscar winning scriptwriter of Traffic - Stephen Gaghan. This was followed by a mass demonstrations of the console in stores worldwide and a hugely successful build-up party at the Toys 'R' Us flagship store in Times Square, New York.
But it was what the company didn't buy that got it the most attention. A South Park episode aired before the launch, with the device as a key focal point, and the hysterical build-up of the console meant it got on to the heralded front page of the Wall Street Journal.
The result: stores everywhere ran out of stock and within a year the console became the most popular on the market, overtaking the previous market leader, the Xbox 360.
Apple iPhone (2007)
"Every once and a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything." So said Steve Jobs at the keynote for the Apple iPhone and boy was he right. In January 2007 at the MacWorld expo, Jobs unveiled the company's plans to re-invent the phone.
It was of course the Apple iPhone, the handset that changed the mobile phone industry forever. Why? Because it gave other company's the wake-up call needed to start producing consumer-friendly handsets that not only let you phone your mum to tell her you will be late home for tea, but let you play your music and films, and generally organise your life.
The launch of the iPhone was an Apple fan-boy's dream. You could tell from the louder than normal whoops at the keynote that Jobs had delivered something pretty special.
But we all knew what he was going to deliver, as Apple's publicity machine thrives on rumour and speculation. It's no wonder, then, that back in 2007, a Harvard Business School Professor estimated that Apple had garnered around $400 million in free publicity during the long build-up to the launch of the device.
Maybe Apple is on to something with its 'no comment' approach to journalists after all – it leaves us gullible mugs gasping for more.
Halo 3 (2007)
There's never been as much publicity for a videogame as there was for the launch of Halo 3. Proving that the gaming sector can quite rightly hold its own against the likes of the movie and music industry, the arrival of Halo 3 on the Xbox 360 saw the game make record-breaking sales in the US of $170 million on its opening day.
To put that into perspective, $170 million beats the opening weekend of every blockbuster movie made ever – with only The Dark Knight's $160 million weekend box-office receipt coming close.
And the hysteria wasn't just felt in the real world. Online, over a million people logged into play the game within the first 20 hours of the web service becoming available.
After just a week of it being on sale, the game had racked up $300 million globally and sales of the Xbox 360, which coincided with the launch, doubled. Within two weeks, an amazing 5 million copies of Halo 3 had been sold. They don't call him Master Chief for nothing.