Friday, January 09, 2009

Windows 7 Will Not Save The World

I have no way to describe or explain why Vista "failed."

It is an awesome operating system that has been amazingly stable from day one.

I hate one thing about it: The Windows Explorer. I want a list of files and folders and I want my view to be identical every time on every folder, period. I could do this in every earlier version of Windows. There are whole web sites dedicated to trying to make this happen in Vista. but it doesn't work.

Other than that ONE thing, I love Vista and always have.

But Microsoft lost the P.R. War on this one. In fact, they didn't show up for the battle until the war was over and the bystanders all went home.

The accepted wisdom "out there" is that Vista sucks. There does not appear to be a good reason for this feeling, or a very specific set of complaints. "They say," and "I've heard" is all you get.

Reality is: Vista IS great and every everyone who uses it for a few months loves it.

This is a major wakeup call for Microsoft (or at least it should be). Until recently, Microsoft has not tried to go around the partners and sell directly to the public. That means their primary method for creating buzz about products like Office and Windows has been a two stage process:

1) Get the technology community (nerds) onboard

2) and let them spread the word to their customers, friends, and families.

But nothing at Microsoft is simple.

In order to be really successful, a new operating system needs to address four massive concerns, any one of which could have a dramatic negative effect on sales:

First, Hardware manufacturers have to write drivers for the new system. If core client devices don't work with the new O.S., they'll delay adopting.

Some manufacturers absolutely have to jump on the bandwagon as soon as possible to survive (e.g., HP and Dell). Others know they need to get on board eventually, but don't have to hurry too much (e.g., cameras, modems, NICs). Still others can completely ignore the new O.S. and stay with a previous generation as long as they want (e.g., manufacturing machines).

Second, Software manufacturers have to write programs that work on the new platform. Sometimes this is a minor update and sometimes it's a whole new version. I believe software has the same basic categories as hardware:

Some manufacturers absolutely have to jump on the bandwagon as soon as possible to survive (e.g., Office, anti-virus, financials). Others know they need to get on board eventually, but don't have to hurry too much (e.g., graphics programs, utilities). Still others can completely ignore the new O.S. and stay with a previous generation as long as they want (e.g., line of business applications).

Third, The installed Base of the older operating system doesn't beg to be upgraded because it works so well. Microsoft had a real awakening with Server 2000. They killed off Novell pretty quickly. And Apple servers never got a toehold anywhere. But the installed base of NT 4.0 was Rock Solid and loyal. It just worked. Perfectly. And despite scary stories about security, most people had hardware firewalls and a working anti-virus, so they never experienced problems.

Vista hit the same thing with XP: It just works. Everyday. Perfectly. Just as it did the day before.

Finally, Fourth, People have to have a Reason to Switch. In a perfect world, we would just roll out the newest machines with with newest O.S. and the newest Office. So, the perfect client would replace 1/3 of their machines each year, rolling in new machines with all the good stuff installed.

BUT none of this exists in a vacuum.

Microsoft failed to get hardware manufacturers to jump on board in a timely manner. HP and Dell did a great job. But basically everyone else said "let's wait 8-12 months after release." WHY they did that, I have no idea. The newest version of Windows won't just go away. Ignoring it won't make it go away.

Microsoft failed to get software manufacturers to jump on board in a timely manner. This is particularly true with LOB manufacturers. Almost every client we have has a line of business app that won't work with Vista -- and it's been out for two years! Granted, many of these apps are poorly written pieces of junk that some amateur programming house threw togetehr. But if the client is relying on that software, they have two choices: Pick new software, or wait for their product to be updated.

It is nearly impossible to tell a client that they have to replace the most important piece of software in the office because YOU think they should support professional software vendors that wrote this code during the year before the operating system was released.

And these aren't a bunch of hacks, although I made it sound like that. These are some big, well-known companies!

Microsoft has certainly learned that the installed base is their biggest challenge.

In fact, it's fair to say that Windows XP is the most beloved operating system every in the history of the universe.

MacIntosh users might love their operating systems more deeply, but there's only a few hundred of them.

The installed base for XP is massive, dedicated, and calcified. They have every reason to keep what they have and no reason to change.

And now that the Beta for Windows 7 is in general release, no one has a good reason to switch. Why not wait until late 2009 when W7 is out? Why not wait six more months until we know it's stable? Why not wait another year until SP1?

Here's The Bad News for everyone who "hates" Vista: Windows 7 won't look more like XP. It won't be less safe to operate. It won't be more compatible with antique hardware or obsolete software.

Windows 7 is the future. It will have features and benefits that are a couple of generations beyond XP.

So if your twisted mind somehow thinks that getting rid of Vista means getting XP back, then you'll be very disappointed.

Here's what I hope the future does hold:

- It would be great if Microsoft created demand generation during the first year of release. Don't wait to discover that the combined installed base for XP and Vista to too big a challenge to overcome.

- It would be great if Microsoft made full version licenses available via open license, and in the action packs. Not having such a policy added months to the delay of getting acceptance for Vista. Remember the 1-2 punch: Nerds first, everyone else second. Well, if you don't let nerds put the o.s. where they want it, they can't get addicted.

- Microsoft should acknowledge the massive installed base and STOP doing a major rev every few years. W7 will be the FOURTH desktop operating system in nine years! (Yeah, I know I left out ME.) Given that fact, why would any business be foolish enough to adopt every edition that comes out? Operating Systems don't even have an average lifetime of a computer! And, let's be honest, a lot of people don't replace their computers every three years.

How about this, Microsoft?

Put out a New O.S. once every 6-7 years. Then do REV every 18-24 months between major releases.

That way, hardware manufacturers don't have to write new drivers all the time. They can plan on a stable driver architecture for 6-7 years.

And software manufacturers don't have to write new versions all the time. An LOB vendor can plan on a stable platform architecture for 6-7 years.

A REV can add features, and people may choose to buy them. When new technologies come out, the REV can take that into consideration. But printers will still print, all the software will keep running, and businesses can PLAN their expenses.

When I've talked to people with large installations, they're not opposed to spending some money each year. But major revisions are far more expensive than the cost of software. Make it easier for these organizations to choose your operating system and you'll have people who cooperate with your roadmap process.

- - - - -

Windows 7 is not the answer to anyone's problems: It's just another symptom of the problems.

Now I'm going to go backup my MP3 files and hide them so I can install W7 in a virtual environment.



  1. Anonymous6:08 PM

    This is why I love Karl in a manly way! Tell it like it is. In my opinion, Windows 7 is Vista SP2. The only thing that was wrong with Vista was bad marketing and Microsoft lack of respect for its creation.

    For those of you still hating Vista, you first need to know why instead of following the heard. Just because your 10 year old Packard Bell with your 16-bit Dungeons and Dragons game won't run Vista, doesn't make it a piece of crap. It just makes you cheap.

  2. Anonymous6:19 PM

    'heard' is a funny double entendre even if merely a Freudian slip

  3. Michael, you're totally giving it away!

    Ixnay on the Ervice Pack Two-say.

  4. Anonymous7:55 PM

    @ Duitwithsbs, You are probably the only one who will get that. Most will think its a misspell. :)

    @ Karl, Why? No one will believe us anyway because we are not part of the media Vista haters.

  5. I avoided Vista initially because I wasn't going to move myself and clients to a new OS - I don't know how you guys do it, but I don't have time to be a beta tester or leading edge with RTM software either. Selfish me - I'll let others find the bugs and I'll read about the solutions later.

    But forget all that. Why oh why does microsoft have to rearrange things in the UI? My clients aren't interested in having to learn where things are now, unless there's a strong reason for the change. What do you say instead of 'click on the start button' now? It's a globe. Most of the world are not techies. they want to type a letter, not revel in the changes to a ribbon interface.

    Do you buy a car and the brake and gas petals are moved around from model to model? The shifter isn't always PRND12? I feel Microsoft rearranges things for the sake of making it different. Clients and I don't like that. Then there's the upgrade of hardware and software loop - buying a newer version of an app because you got a Vista machine and the older version won't run on Vista. Extra costs that, especially now, people don't want. Add the retraining costs / lost productivity and downgrade to XP makes more and more sense.

  6. Mike,

    Vista was available for MSDN user and Tech net subscriptions for what almost two years before vista came out. Now vista has been out for almost two years. In the two years before it came out, you never had a change to look at it. What about the two years after?
    Installing the beta might be considered Bleeding edge, but Released to Manufacture... that’s not bleeding edge.

    Biggest issue I’ve come across using vista, no drivers for the 64 bit operating systems. But that was the same problem I had in XP 64 bit.

    Complaining about the default theme Microsoft gives you is one thing, forgetting that you can simply switch themes, and well your back to looking like windows xp, or even 2000 if you really want to.

    We are techies; it’s our responsibility to let people know they have options. They can turn off the ribbon. They can make vista look like windows xp.

    Microsoft is trying to promote new features in its products so it makes them the most visible change in the application.

    On the other hand Microsoft doesn’t do a good job of letting Ordinary users bypass theses new features/adapt to them at a slower pace.

  7. I know sarcasm when I see it, but defining 10% of the user base as "a few hundred of them" doesn't even get close to the number of people who use OS X on a daily basis.

    I think the "failure" of Vista has to do largely with marketing. Right or wrong, I saw Vista as the OS that would change EVERYTHING. As an IT manager, I don't want to change ANYTHING. Upgrading to Vista seemed to be an overwhelming task. And, as you said, XP is running fine. We could run XP for another 15 years, barring major software changes requiring an upgrade.

    OS X on the other hand releases a new version every 18 months or so, and it's no big deal. Each OS X dot release (10.3., 10.4, 10.5, etc.) is a significant improvement, but the user (and IT) experience does not change significantly.

    Having said that, I'm surprised at how well Windows 7 beta runs on one of our older machines. It's starting to grow on me...


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