Windows 8 London launch: 'Is This A Queue For The iPad Mini?'

Summary: Microsoft's Windows 8 is here, but with no UK launch activities I was slightly dubious as to how many people would drag themselves to central London for Currys/PC World's launch event. So, just how many did?

It's finally here: Windows 8 has arrived. And my 60-inch touchscreen is bigger than yours.
Ok, well, it's not my touchscreen, it's Currys & PC World's touchscreen on Tottenham Court Road, put there to excite (or placate) the throngs of customers waiting for the midnight launch of Windows 8 in the UK.

While the live-streaming official introduction of Windows 8 started in the UK many hours earlier, Currys and PC World decided to throw their own party in London to welcome in the new touch-friendly OS - starting at one minute past midnight, on the dot.

To entice people to the store, there were a number of special offers. For example, an HP Pavilion G6 E2 with 6GB RAM and a 750GB hard drive was going for £249, while the same company's DV7 i7 with 6GB RAM and 1TB of memory was £599 - around £400 off the usual price, according to the retailer.

"The team at our Currys & PC World store on Tottenham Court Road is anticipating a long queue outside the store throughout Thursday evening in the run up to the 00:01 opening on Friday, October 26," a spokesman for the retailer said in a statement before the event.
While Currys/PC World was predicting big queues, I had my doubts before setting out. After all, the shop couldn't even sell the headline-grabbing Surface tablet - Microsoft is doing this only through its own channels.

Somewhat to my surprise, though, when I arrived at Tottenham Court Road there was a queue of around 300 people or so - almost exactly the number that got free Beats headphones with an HP purchase.

The lucky chaps at the front (pictured) had been waiting since 5pm for the store to open its doors. Number one and two were brothers - one had even flown over from Madrid for the event.
In the number-three spot was David Wiggs, who had only travelled up from Surrey but was clearly keen to get his hands on a bargain.

"It's just too good a deal to miss out on; so perfect a marriage of technology," Wiggs said. This was only the second launch event of any kind he had been to - and the first was for Windows XP. Wiggs was there to snap up an HP DV7 with Core i7 processor (and the free headphones).
To keep folks entertained, the shop laid on a magician to wander around. In the 45 minutes before the doors opened, I didn't see him doing any magic; but he did strike quite the moody angular pose.

Shortly before the doors opened, a chant of "Windows 8 will be great" went up. A few people joined in, before realising that the future tense perhaps didn't convey the intended meaning.
Sure enough at 00:01am on the dot, the doors were thrown wide and the patient queuers were let into the shop in batches, smiling, clutching their queue numbers tightly.
Clearly taking cues from Apple, the Currys/PC World staff let out some whooping and hollering when the countdown got to zero and the doors opened. But unlike an Apple launch, they didn't continue doing it while every single person made their way in, thankfully.

While the Spanish brothers were first in the queue, they hit a bit of a hiccup when it came to actually paying.

Pictured above is the moment when our number-one man was told that they would have to go to another till as the keyboard had gone a bit wonky at this one. Not the happiest looking face, which is fair enough after seven hours of standing in line.
As a result of the till's keyboard failure, the first people to exit the store were actually about numbers four and five from the queue - incidentally, one of them was the woman who started the "Windows 8 will be great" chant. They scurried off home pretty quickly, clearly having had enough of posing for photos and talking to the likes of me.

And then, just as I was packing up and about to leave (I was actually stood talking with a Microsoft exec at the time) a random passerby on Tottenham Court Road staggered up to us and asked: "Is this the queue for the iPad mini launch?"

No, my friend, it's not.
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