Microsoft Reacts to Apparent Vista Failure

As a marketing exercise, Vista has been a failure.  We see lots of sales figures but these are totally distorted by how Microsoft sells Software Assurance and uses SKU’s, e.g. by a copy of Windows Server 2003 today and the EOpen site shows a W2008 purchase.  The same applies with XP and Vista.  If a corporation with SA buys a desktop CAL for an XP deployment, they have bought a Vista license with downgrade rights.  And talk to people on the street … they either hear that Vista is bad or they don’t like it.

It’s one of those damned if you do, damned if you don’t things where MS had to "fail" at some point.  Do you keep 100% backwards compatibility or do you just have a cut off and say anything for XWP or W2K no longer works on Vista?  MS chose neither and got caught in a mess.  There’s an argument that we should blame 3rd party software developers for incompatibility issues.  I’d agree with that to a fair amount.  The customer just doesn’t care about that; what they care about is that they can’t use their LOB applications on Vista because the OS changed.  We can discuss application compatibility toolkits but they just add more complications and difficulty to admins.  MS fails to recognise that admins struggle to keep up with most IT challenges.  Not everyone is rocket scientist or has time to decipher poor documentation or incomplete online examples.  Software virtualisation would be cool.  However this is only an option for bigger businesses and, again, is only available to SA customers.

Businesses also wonder why they should adopt Vista.   What is in it for them?  How does it improve on XP?  Collaboration … pfft!  You need Office, SharePoint and Exchange for that.  Security?  Somewhat but the "killer app" was BitLocker which was witheld from most purchasers by only putting it in Ultimate (1 in 1000 machines on a network allowed to run this) or Enterprise (which on SA customers can use).

We were expecting that in just over 1 year we should expect Windows Vista R2 and in 1.5 years we would get Windows Server 2008 R2.  Those who disliked Vista were also saying they’d wait for Windows 7.  Here’s how MS has reacted.  R2 is shelved.  Windows 7 has been accelerated and will be the next OS release from MS.

Don’t expect things like UAC to disappear.  Some changes will not be undone.  MS’s challenge is to give business a reason to want to upgrade.  Personally, I see some reasons to go with Vista and W2008 but those aren’t enough for many customers.  I think MS also has to step out from the basement and listen to customers who aren’t USA Fortune 500 companies.  Not everyone has 1000’s of IT staff and limitless budgets.

Oh – hiring Jerry Seinfeld to talk about shoes with Bill Gates in a very unfunny advert won’t fix Vista’s marketing woes.  Even people fired from the BBC’s Apprentice have learned that mentioning the product helps an advert work.

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