Microsoft Takes Over Times Square for its Windows 8 Launch
Microsoft is synonymous with technology. So the technology used for the brand’s Times Square takeover for its Windows 8 launch in October 2012, was understandably awesome. To introduce consumers and the press to the new operating system, for three days, on 39 screens, Windows 8 took over New York City’s most iconic intersection.
Windows 8 embodies several leaps in OS design. In addition to looking dramatically different from previous iterations of Windows, interactions are designed for touch as the primary means of engagement. This was new and had never been attempted before in such a visible, ubiquitous product. So, the brand wanted to provide consumers with a hands-on Windows 8 experience that went beyond a simple demo. Microsoft felt people needed to experience for themselves how magical and intuitive this new platform is. The company also wanted to demonstrate live tiles, icons and modules that updated in real time with information relevant to the user, and to showcase other OS features—called “Magic Moments”—such as snap view and full-screen apps.
The custom technology solution for the launch event incorporated a combination of Microsoft.NET, SQL Server and HTML5 running in Microsoft Azure, as well as native Windows 8 apps. The result: a high-tech experience that covered Times Square with oversized tables with Windows 8 PCs, then broadcasted consumers using the OS on the ground so that thousands more could see it on the Square’s 39 massive screens. They were all synchronized, so as consumers played with the desktops, their photos and drawings appeared simultaneously on the screen closest to them. Visitors even played Windows 8 games in gigantic scale by mirroring gameplay to the American Eagle and Reuters screens.
Supporting synchronized and dynamic content across 39 displays in Times Square had never been done before. The 39 displays were controlled by multiple signage platforms and had no direct network connection. Some didn’t have usable Internet connections. However, the technology combination made it possible to turn all 39 separate screens in Times Square into a single canvas controlled by Windows 8 tablets and all-in-one PCs on the ground. The solution has changed expectations of what a Times Square takeover should look like.
The event performed very well, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Foot traffic was estimated at more than two million through the area during the event, with 45,000 to 75,000 interactions. An estimated 2,400 photos and paintings were created with the software. The takeover generated more than 20 million Facebook impressions, five million Twitter impressions and 20,000 social conversations.