11:52 pm. The witching hour. It's cold, wet, and windy tonight in Plano. That's an uncommon combination for this state. Most of this week has been dry and warm and then today, of all days, it started to rain. And kept on raining for eleven straight hours. Now it's damp and foggy, which lends a sort of ominous caste to the whole world.
Perhaps the weather is why there are so few people here tonight. Or perhaps people in suburban Texas prefer Macs over PCs. Whatever the reason, I can tell the employees here are disappointed by the low turn-out. There are less than two-dozen of us waiting outside of this Fry's in eager anticipation of the Windows 7 midnight release.
When I first heard that Fry's was doing a midnight release for Windows 7, I was a little surprised. Normally stores do midnight releases for exceptionally popular video games or gaming consoles. The last time I stood outside a computer store in a line like this was for the first World of Warcraft expansion. Then, there were over a hundred of us.
The clock strikes 12. Midnight is here, along with one last car-load of Windows 7 fans. There are now two dozen of us waiting outside in the cold for a software roll-out. The manager thanks us all for our patience and lets us in.
We all head straight for the computers. No one is here to buy video games, DVDs, hardware or televisions. We all want Windows 7, although I briefly toy with the idea of buying a Mac, just for irony's sake. I start browsing and come upon a middle-aged woman trying to decide between two notebooks, an Acer and an HP, both loaded with Windows 7.
"Ma'am, can I ask you what you're looking for in a PC?"
"Well, I just want something I can take with me to class. I need it mainly for notes and homework."
I nod. "And what's got you excited about Windows 7?"
She shrugs. "I dunno. It's supposed to be faster, isn't it?"
I thank her for her time and move on. The selection here is good, but not fantastic. They don't have much in the way of CULVs, and they only have a couple all-in-ones, none of which are labelled yet. They do have a Toshiba M505 Touch. It is exactly as gorgeous in person as I thought it would be. I spend several happy minutes playing with the touchscreen. Normally I don't like to be effusive with my praise, but this thing is fantastic.
As a touch UI, Windows 7 works very well. Whenever I poke the screen, my touch is met with a little rippling effect, similar to dropping a pebble into a pond. At first this is a little irksome, but I quickly come to like the feature. It helps me to measure exactly where I'm clicking and prompts me to use less force in doing so.
"That Toshiba is really hot." a nerdy looking fellow with a bushy beard and a bald head pipes up from behind me. "If I had a thousand dollars to spend today..."
"What are you looking for?" I ask, because I am a reporter, dammit, and it's time for some more journalism.
"I just want a cheap notebook with good battery life. Something I can take on the road."
"So what has you out at a midnight Windows 7 release?"
He flashes me a conspiratorial grin. "Tonight is the end of Vista! That's worth celebrating."
I laugh. "But what is it about Windows 7 that you like?"
"Well, I've been running NT for the last eight years. I want something better, and Windows 7 looks good. It's not overbuilt, like Vista."
I excuse myself politely. Onto the next table, where I find a pair of men (I hear snippets of conversation, and gather from my college Arabic classes that they are Iranian. Or Iraqi. Or Saudi Arabian. I never was very good at Arabic.)
"Excuse me! Can I ask what you're looking for in a computer?"
"I just want a desktop that can multitask well. I do a lot of graphic design." he gestures at an HP Pavilion Elite with a Core i7 processor. "I like this one."
"So what is it about Windows 7 that you find exciting?"
"I hear it is faster, and that it uses up less system memory."
We talk a little while longer, and then I make for the door. The customers were more or less what I expected. Most of them (I talked to more than four people) said the same things. They heard 7 was better at multi-tasking, or that it used up less memory. None of them were excited about 7's touch and multitouch capabilities. Considering the cost of the machines that take advantage of it, I can understand why.
While I've had an entertaining night, I still haven't found the notebook for me. Later today I will venture into Best Buy for a look at their Windows 7 launch day festivities. Perhaps the machine of my dreams lies there, waiting...