Hundreds turn out to buy Windows Vista in Tokyo

It went on sale at midnight local time

TOKYO -- Hundreds of people braved chilly weather in Tokyo on Monday night and into the early hours of Tuesday to be among the first in the world to buy a retail copy of the Windows Vista operating system.

Major electronics retailers across the city and specialist PC retailers in the electronics mecca of Akihabara were open at midnight to sell the first copies.

At Tsukumo Denki in Akihabara, a crowd of about 200 people had gathered by about 10 p.m. in anticipation of the launch. An equally large line of people waited at the nearby Yodobashi Camera store, which is Japan's largest electronics store.

A couple of hundred people also waited outside Bic Camera in the Yurakucho district of Tokyo. Some were there to buy Vista; others appeared to be office workers on the way home who had stopped to take in the scene and watch the comedy duo the store had hired to entertain those waiting.

"I feel great," said Darren Huston, president and CEO of Microsoft's Japanese unit, Microsoft Co., in an interview at 1 a.m. local time on Tuesday, just after Vista went on sale. "It's a real testament to Japan. I don't know what other people are coming out on a cold Tuesday night in January to celebrate a new operating system."

Microsoft ran several promotional events in Akihabara prior to Tuesday's launch in an attempt to build buzz for the operating system. The company views the PC enthusiasts that frequent the district's parts, electronics and hobby stores as influential users who can drive sales among a wider customer base.

"These are all just anecdotal data points, but the sell-through of Vista Ultimate tonight -- it really is the product that is in demand in Akihabara," Huston said. "And it really shows the PC enthusiasts wanting to get the very, very best in their hands," he added. "They're a really, really critical audience to test, put their hands on [the operating system] and write their blogs about it and say what they like and they don't like and give feedback.... As they do that, I think they will influence a much bigger community around them."

Japan got a head start on most of the rest of the world thanks to its position just three hours west of the international date line.

Vista was due to first go on sale in New Zealand, where All Blacks rugby star Daniel Carter bought the first computer loaded with Vista and the 2007 Microsoft Office suite and put it up for charity auction. The auction is to benefit Cure Kids, a charity for children with life- threatening illnesses.

As of a couple of hours into the new day, the laptop had attracted 20 bids and the price was sitting at $871. Copies of Windows Vista Ultimate Edition "digitally signed" by Bill Gates had attracted six bids and were at $348. 

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon