PLAYER OF THE WEEK;MICROSOFT'S CHASE STARTING UP WINDOWS 95

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Brad Chase spent three years plotting to make Windows 95 a runaway success. But he seemed genuinely caught off guard last Wednesday by the crowd waiting for an Egghead store in suburban Seattle to open at midnight so they could buy his product.

"I can't believe this," grinned Mr. Chase, decked out in a "Think Big" sweatshirt outside the store near Microsoft Corp. headquarters. "This is a historical moment. I don't want to be too melodramatic, because it is only software. But it is pretty amazing."

And much of the credit goes to Mr. Chase, the energetic general manager of Microsoft's personal operating systems division and the chief marketing executive for Windows 95.

"It's all Brad Chase," said Jon Lazarus, VP-strategic relations and a close aide to Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates.

But Mr. Chase wants the credit spread around. "I may be the leader but I think it is certainly a team effort," he said.

Indeed, a key part of Mr. Gates' success is getting people throughout Microsoft to contribute ideas and take risks. That atmosphere left Mr. Chase inundated with schemes to engender excitement for Windows 95.

Mr. Chase, though, conceived what may be the most significant marketing idea: a massive "preview" program putting pre-production versions of Windows 95 in the hands-and PCs-of some 1 million influential customers, computer insiders, analysts and journalists.

The test versions had bugs, meaning Mr. Chase was giving his most important customers and purchase influencers a product full of defects. But he bet-correctly-that Windows 95, was such a strong product the guinea pigs would forgive the bugs, which were fixed. As a result, the final product had more field testing than any previous software, and the introduction came with an army of users singing its praises.

"Their word-of-mouth is probably the greatest testament to the product," he said.

Outside the Egghead store, Mr. Chase wondered if an event with the magnitude and appeal of the Windows 95 launch could ever be repeated. It could be that this event, like the arrival of Apple's Macintosh with the startling "1984," had too many factors working in concert to ever hope topping it.

But he really wasn't in the mood to think much along those lines. "I don't know the answer," he said. "I'm glad to be able to experience this moment, though.'

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Brad Chase

BORN: Aug. 13, 1960, in San Francisco

EDUCATION: M.B.A., Northwestern University's Kellogg Graduate School of Management; B.S., University of California at Berkeley.

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: General manager of Microsoft Corp.'s personal operating systems division, where he directs the marketing strategy and execution for the MS-DOS and Windows family of products, including Windows 95; previously held a variety of other management roles at the company; before joining Microsoft in July 1987, he was a sales representative for Boise Cascade's office products division.

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