Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Welcome to Hotel Microsoft

Custom_dance_floor300_2 When I think Microsoft, I don't think sleek, sexy fun.

A get-to-know-me party at the Hotel Sax Chicago last night tried to change my mind and the minds of hundreds of other guests at a swanky unveiling for the 9-month-old spot, the renovated former House of Blues Hotel.

Hotel Sax sees itself as a playground for tech-savvy travelers, with Microsoft technology hardwired throughout the 16-story building in a pilot project for the software giant. But was it me, or did I miss something?

The centerpiece is something called The Studio -- Experience by Microsoft. It's a small gathering space, an entertainment lounge for guests only that's decked out in contemporary splendor and tricked out with a couple of Xbox 360s, juiced-up HP laptops, Zune portable media players you can plug into and a "technology butler" who'll show you how to play "Guitar Hero III" or view videos on the Zune. I get the idea: Have fun with Microsoft. Live with Microsoft. Want Microsoft.

Silhouetted_dancer_od0c112 But despite the party's dainty appetizers, the hotel's contemporary-without-being-austere decor and the silhouetted female dancers gyrating to throbbing music, I still couldn't connect "sleek, sexy fun" with the company whose big claim to fame is computer operating systems.

Shaun Robins, a brand manager for Microsoft, acknowledges that I'm not the only one.

As he and hotel marketing director Adam Kaplan led me on a tour of the Presidential Suite, past champagne-sipping partiers and guys standing on a sofa playing "Guitar Hero III," I asked Robins, "When people hear the words 'it's a Microsoft Hotel,' what do you want them to think?"

After thinking a moment, he replied, "[I want them to think] 'I didn't know they did that!' I want them to be surprised."

The two Presidential Suites have unobtrusive touch screens in the foyer, so you can dim the lights, change the temperature and cue up mood music throughout the suite. A remote by the bed lets you do all that while you're cozy under the covers. The remote and foyer touch panel need a bit of explaining before you know what controls what, but that's why Microsoft is in Hotel Sax -- to let people live with and get used to unfamiliar technology so that they'll want it in their homes.

I asked the hotel's Kaplan, "So, by saying you're a Microsoft hotel, are you telling Apple lovers to stay away?"

"I don't think so," he said with a smile. "Creative people love technology."

But will they love Microsoft?

Though Hotel Sax is home away from home for visiting rock bands, VIPs and CEOs, last night lacked the youthful energy that partiers at the city's two W Hotels regularly radiate. I plan to go back -- I'm sure I missed something -- and sample Hotel Sax in a less liquid environment. In fact, I'm now on a quest to find the coolest place to stay in Chicago, a place for tech fiends yet one that doesn't intimidate techphobes. Maybe the Hotel Sax is it? I'll let you know.

Top 5 things NOT heard at Hotel Sax Chicago last night:

(5) "Welcome to Hotel Microsoft. May I show you to your cubicle?"

(4) "I just left Microsoft Office, now I'm checking into Microsoft Hotel!"

(3) "When it's time to leave, you don't hail a taxi; you download a driver."

(2) "You want a Blu-ray player sent to your room? Blu-ray? Never heard of it."

(1) "Where are all the Macs??!!!"

Source : Ehotelier
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1 comment:

Fantabulous said...

I checked out the Hotel Sax -Chicago recently after reading so much about it on the blogs. I was interested to see if it lived up to all the hype. I liked the funky interiors, and The Studio-Experience by Microsoft (6th floor Techno heaven) was a great stress reliever after a hard day of meetings. The staff was extremely accomidating and friendly. They even told me of a current promotion of a 20% discount for my next scheduled trip. It's an open deal and you just put "cache 08" in the promo box when you book.
Yeah, maybe it's a stretch to think that Microsoft is going into the luxury hotel business- but going geek is the trend, and where the bucks are. Where better to spend all that extra cyber revenue? They made me a believer - and I even got a high score thanks to a fellow xboxist who shared a martini with me!

Check it out. It's worth it!




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