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Dancers, Broadway, And A Bill Gates Bash? It Can Only Mean One Thing

The consumer launch of Microsoft's Windows Vista operating system will be an all-day extravaganza in New York City.

Windows Vista is finally here. Well, almost. After five years of development, what's a couple of more days?

Bill Gates and guests by the hundreds will be in New York on Monday, Jan. 29, for an all-day Vista consumer launch fest. Ceremonies will start in the morning on Manhattan's West Side with a "human billboard" of 16 intrepid dancers bobbing up and down via ropes and pulleys.

That will be followed by an invitation-only lunch at Cipriani restaurant hosted by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Then the main event -- a five-and-a-half hour "celebration" at the Nokia Theatre on Broadway in Times Square, which seats 2,000 people and features an 85-foot, high-def LCD screen on its marquee.

Windows Vista doesn't formally ship until the next day, Jan. 30. Between the event and the actual launch, Gates is scheduled to make an appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

All of this for a PC operating system that some critics say isn't a huge advance from Windows XP. And, of course, Windows Vista is arriving later than planned. In reporting Jan. 25 that second-quarter profit fell 28% on 6% higher revenue, Microsoft said it had to defer $1.64 billion in revenue because of the delayed rollout of Vista and the new version of Office.

IT professionals can ignore the fuss; Microsoft released Vista to business customers two months ago.

The big question: Will consumers run out to snap Vista up? Some retail stores, including Best Buy and Circuit City, will be open at midnight just in case. On Tuesday, Ballmer will appear at the Best Buy on 5th Avenue to do what he does best -- hawk Microsoft's newest software.

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