This subject has been beaten into the ground and is still being brought up, day after day, one vendor after another just cannot stop selling the Windows XP heroin that the addicts are screaming they want at the door:
So Dell, yet again, extends the freebie. Microsoft offers downgrade rights and Dell offers another way to stay on XP. The popular thinking and chatter around the world is that Microsoft is just trying to buy time until Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) this fall to announce Windows 7 and scrap Vista completely on the spot.
This fairy tale is apparently so sweet and dreamy that every day another rumor comes out and with each reincarnation it distances the Windows further and further away from what Microsoft as a company stands for: Choice. Now, some of you may laugh when you hear that, or think “Yeah right, Microsoft choice!“, but the truth of the matter is that Microsoft’s willingness to be flexible in order to sell the most software is also the major complaint that its customers have.
Before you dismiss this completely, consider the complaints about Microsoft security. Microsoft fixes the problem, but most of us turn off UAC on the very first reboot. Then there are complaints about lack of 64bit support. Yet, the majority of Vista complaints seem to be centered around people trying to run their 1998 copy of Printshop and that dot matrix printer they picked up at a garage sale. Folks don’t want to pay for features XYZ and they cry faul about Microsoft not playing to the needs of the SOHO and SMB hobby businesses – we don’t want Infopath, Office is too expensive!!! So Microsoft yanks the non-SOHO features and partners bitch about licensing complexity and lack of ability to roll out Office 2007 in a Terminal Server. Now, the likelyhood that the guy who got the dot matrix printer and couldn’t get it working with Vista in order to print a banner from 1998 Printshop is probably not accessing his word from his Terminal Server.
Microsoft has long stood for convenience, for cutting deals, for competing aggressively, for crushing everything in its path to get to the customers PC for all their computing needs.. and it only got them more than 90% of the market.
The other day I spoke with one of my largest clients, well, largest bank in the world and we were discussing something off Dealnews. Somehow the conversation turned to XP still being on sale and I had to ask if they ran XP: “You bet.”
Here is the reality of the Windows as a commodity operating system: Regular information workers could care less what is under the hood. Their training consists of a line of business application binder with the screenshots and clickthrough instructions to help them get their job done. The value in solutions that Microsoft, Apple and others produce is nearly nonexistent. That whole productivity pipe dream that works so well in SMB does not translate to the large collection of computer users, at least in business. They live in their apps, not in the Microsoft apps. Only us techies do that, part because we can figure it out but part because that is the drug we sell.
Outside of that tiny % of the population the reality is much different. The reason people love Mac’s, despite the overpriced hardware with no choice and most of the time just one year warranty, is that people start to play with their computers and since there is only one way to get it done they get it done and are impressed it was actually possible. So they play, they goof off, they become happy with their little PC. The Windows experience? Every time you try playing with the consumer side of the tools you get hit with the questions only an ITPRO can answer. For years people have faced broken computers, “You shouldn’t have done that” afterthoughts, that they are outright scared to even try anything.
So again, as long as its selling, why should Microsoft bother changing the game that they for all intents and purposes dominate? This isn’t a good Microsoft vs. Evil Microsoft type of a question, aren’t we just getting what we deserve?