Microsoft Kicks Off National Search for “Start Something” Experiences

REDMOND, Wash. — May 24, 2005 — Microsoft Corp. today announced a call for entries for the Start Something Amazing Awards, a nationwide program honoring people who use Windows® and related technology in simple yet powerful ways to pursue what they are passionate about.

The Start Something Amazing Awards are designed to recognize the many unique and creative ways people are using Windows technology today. People are invited to submit a personal story or nominate others who have used Windows technology to pursue their interests or start something new. Five award winners will receive a trip to Seattle with the opportunity to meet Bill Gates, $5,000 in Windows technology and once-in-a-lifetime prizes designed to further celebrate their passions provided by Entertainment Weekly magazine, ESPN Inc., the National Geographic Society, Scripps Networks Inc. (Home & Garden Television (HGTV) and Food Network), and VH1. One grand prize winner also will be featured as part of the national Start Something ad campaign.

“Whether it’s raising donations for favorite causes or recording a first album, the incredible advancements in technology and the Windows platform offer individuals greater opportunities to follow their passions,” said Bill Gates, chairman and chief software architect at Microsoft. “With Windows, people have a vast choice of tools, applications and devices to start anything they like.”

According to a recent study conducted by Microsoft, the vast majority of people, more than 75 percent, believe technology has made it easier to pursue their personal interests or hobbies outside of work. Respondents reported that technology has impacted nearly every aspect of daily life, whether it’s work, entertainment or family, with people spending an average of 7.2 hours a week using technology to pursue their interests or hobbies. Home and lifestyle activities ranked as the most commonly pursued interests, with 52 percent of people using their PC or related technologies to enjoy and pursue activities such as cooking, gardening or home and life management. Other popular activities include photography and digital media (49 percent), music (47 percent), and cultural or community interests (such as education, science or travel, 47 percent).

People can enter the Start Something Amazing Awards by visiting http://windows.com/awards. Each entrant will be required to submit an essay of 300 words or less describing what they, or someone they know, have had the opportunity to start; optional photos or video can also be submitted. They will be judged on their ability to demonstrate how they are pursuing a passion or interest; why they’re passionate about it; how it has positively impacted their life or that of others; and how Windows or Windows-based technology, applications and devices were used as part of what they are doing.

One winner will be selected from each of the following five categories: Culture & Community, Music, Memories, Home & Lifestyle, and Sports & Games. Winners will receive the following:

  • Culture & Community: National Geographic Expeditions. One winner and a guest will get their choice of one of four exotic National Geographic Expeditions: discover the cultural and natural wonders of Bhutan, explore Tanzania and Zanzibar, take a classical journey through Greece, or chart China’s past. The prize package includes airfare and trip for two.

  • Music: Once-in-a-lifetime music experience. One winner and a guest will travel to New York for VIP access to a Live@VH1.com performance with an opportunity to meet the artist, program a block of music videos on VH1 Classic, and receive 20 DVDs and 20 CDs. The prize package includes airfare and accommodations for two.

  • Memories: Movie Premiere Weekend. One winner and a guest will get VIP access to a major movie premiere in New York City or Hollywood, with first-class airfare, two nights at a hip hotel, invitations to an after-party and $500 in spending money. The package is provided by Entertainment Weekly magazine.

  • Home & Lifestyle: Design consultation or Food Network internship for a day. One winner will have the choice of either an in-home design consultation with an HGTV appointed designer and $5,000 to spend on new home decor, or the chance to be an intern at Food Network in New York City, with a crash course in food styling, the chance to assist on set, an exclusive meal at a Food Network chef restaurant and the entire library of Food Network Kitchens cookbooks. The Food Network package includes airfare and hotel accommodations for two.

  • Sports & Games: Ultimate sports experience. ESPN is offering a one-of-a-kind trip to get behind the scenes at ESPN’s Headquarters in Bristol, Conn., including a tour and an opportunity to meet the “SportsCenter” personalities, and appear on ESPN2’s “Cold Pizza” to be interviewed about their ultimate sports experience. The winner and guest will also have lunch or dinner with an athlete at New York City’s ESPN Zone. This prize package also includes airfare and accommodations for two.

One grand prize winner also will be featured as part of the national Start Something ad campaign.

A complete description of the prizes and program rules and regulations can be found at the awards Web site accessible via http://windows.com/awards. The awards are open to all legal residents of the 50 United States (includes the District of Columbia), who are 13 years of age or older at time of entry. All entries must be received by Sept. 30, 2005 (11:59 p.m. EDT). No purchase is necessary to win. A qualified panel of judges will select the winners in October 2005.

Musician Geoff Byrd Strikes a Chord Online

Portland, Ore.-based singer/songwriter Geoff Byrd is a great example of someone who has pursued his passion utilizing the power of technology. As an up-and-coming musician, he used his Windows-based PC to post his songs on the Internet, quickly becoming one of the most downloaded artists on sites such as GarageBand.com and MSN, where more than 20 million listeners have heard his music.

“With some live shows under my belt and my first independently produced album complete, I knew that distributing my music digitally on the Internet was the only way for me to get the word out there,” Byrd said. “It was my only option, really, except for live shows. I had visited so many cities and played so many venues, using Windows and the Internet provided the best solution to reach the masses and make people aware of my music.”

Byrd’s reputation as the first artist to break via the Internet also helped him get noticed by major labels; he just recently signed with Granite Records, distributed by Fontana, a Universal Music Group Company. He is now on a 50-city radio tour and finished his new album while traveling thanks to the versatility and convenience of technology. Byrd travels everywhere with his laptop, using Windows technology to stay in touch with his fans and mix and share his music from the road. As his career progresses, so does his use of technology, introducing new ways to create and perfect his music along the way. Byrd’s album “Shrinking Violets” will be in stores July 12, 2005.

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