Ice doesn't slow planned Microsoft Vista launch

A rare snowstorm that has covered the Seattle area with glazed sheets of ice since Monday turned Microsoft Corp.'s campus into a ghost town on the eve of its big official launch of Windows Vista and Office 2007 on Thursday.

Seattle has been in the grips of an unusual cold spell that resulted in wet snow that immediately froze late Monday, leaving roads slick, hundreds of cars abandoned and schools closed.

Microsoft employs 35,000 full-time workers, or about half of its global workforce, in the Seattle metropolitan area, along with 5,000 contract employees. Most work at its sprawling suburban Redmond, Wash., headquarters, which consists of more than 60 office buildings.

While Microsoft officially remained open to employees, "campus is pretty dead," said Ron Markezich, Microsoft's CIO for IT operations. He estimated that fewer than one in 10 employees came in to work yesterday, and more than three-quarters of Microsoft's Seattle-area workers checked e-mail and did other work from home. That did not create any problems, Markezich said.

"We did not have to bump up network capacity or add servers. It didn't even cross my radar screen," he said.

Markezich attributed that to the high level of telecommuting that already occurs at Microsoft and the infrastructure already in place to accommodate that. For instance, more than half of Microsoft's Redmond employees did some work at home on Monday, which was a normal workday.

Markezich, who was flying to New York for Thursday's launch of Windows Vista, Office 2007 and Exchange 2007 to businesses, said he had not heard of any problems related to employees trying to connect with employees back in Redmond.

Markezich said employees, even those logging in from their home PCs without secure virtual private network access, should be able to access most of their files and applications on their computers at work. That's provided they left their work PCs running with Windows Vista turned on, Markezich said.

The Microsoft software launch takes places at the Nasdaq Stock Exchange in Manhattan. A marketing person working on tomorrow's event said there had been no weather-related problems. "Most of our people are in New York. We're all systems go," she said.

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