When Windows Vista, Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) newest operating system, launches on January 30, it will be to the sound of a four-second riff--a tiny musical signature likely to be heard, over the product's lifespan, more than the ubiquitous "Happy Birthday." In 2007 alone, the ditty will start the day for 200 million PC users.
Those are pretty high stakes for a few notes. So how to come up with the right sound? "I knew from day one that it would be a tricky process," says project maestro Steve Ball, group program manager for Vista. In the end, it took 18 months--and a team of 20 composers, sound designers, engineers, and developers.
Ball began by asking 10 artists, designers, and musicians--among them Kid Crimson's Robert Fripp, drummer Pat Mastelotto, composer Tucker Martine, and Oscar-winning sound designer Randy Thom--to come up with three to six sounds that were uplifting and unique, energizing and authentic. They submitted 500 entries, some orchestrally ornate, others weird and sound effect-y.