tough business case for windows 7

microsoft-windows-vista-logo-2001Last week I blew 10% of the allotted monthly bandwidth allowance I receive from Northwestel Cable to download Windows 7. I installed it on my Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet and, in all honesty, don’t mind it.

But after reading Prince McLean’s analysis of Microsoft’s market approach to its Windows operating system this morning (Exploring Windows 7 for Mac users), I realize that it really doesn’t matter if I – or anyone else for that matter – likes Windows 7.

Even though, yes, it’s an improvement on Vista, the question remains: does anyone really need to upgrade from XP? What is the value proposition in upgrading? As McLean points out, there really isn’t one: “By the time Vista arrived in early 2007, XP was working well enough to question the need to upgrade to something different.” That remains true today, as that old adage goes: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

There simply isn’t a compelling reason for XP users to turn their worlds upside down and migrate to Windows 7, no matter how pretty Microsoft manages to make it. 

Microsoft’s got to come up with a new business case for its Windows 7 operating system if it wants widespread user adoption. This is especially true now that their plan for Vista might cost the company as much as $8.5 billion in settlement fees as a result of the “Vista Capable” class action lawsuit (‘Vista Capable’ case could cost Microsoft $8.5B).

5 thoughts on “tough business case for windows 7

  1. For that matter, what’s the point of upgrading OS X or any operating system? Apple has the advantage of illogical fanboy sheep to comprise the majority of their customer base.

    These people – I’ve been one of them for a long time – will upgrade to the latest and greatest Apple product without hesitation. On the other hand, while these fans also exist in Microsoft land, they’re outnumbered by more sensible types who are still running Windows 98, 2000 and XP, because as you say, if it ain’t broke….

    Windows 7 was an an easy install, er, sell, for me. This wasn’t because it was New! and Improved! but rather the overall user experience is significantly better than with Vista and older systems.

    With Windows 7, I have more control over how the computer behaves; what it does and when/if I am told it’s doing something. Windows 7 is more consistent, simple and stable than Vista and older Windows operating systems. Add better performance – quicker to start up, faster to respond – and it’s a very worthy upgrade.

    Microsoft should really focus less on shouting about its BIG new features in the marketing of Windows 7 and take a humble, quiet and “grassroots” approach to getting people to purchase the software. This would be worlds apart from their typical shouting and hand waving, but at last they have a product that is fully capable of speaking for itself.

    The marketing of other stellar Microsoft products – .NET, Visual Studio 2008, Sharepoint 2007 and Office 2007 are several examples – is what the company should emulate for Windows 7.

  2. The answer to your questions can be found in the article I referenced (and which has now mysteriously disappeared from AppleInsider-WTF?): Windows is just an operating system, nothing more.

    Mac OS X is part of an integrated solution — an appliance, if you will. Apple offers more because the Mac OS is part of a grander user experience, one that considers the totality of the user’s environment. Windows can only offer what it can offer, plus whatever an OEM might (or might not) offer — and the results are inconsistent.

    A good example of this is 64-bit Windows 7: the operating system will be available in 64-bit, but not all drivers will be. In fact, most will remain 32 bit. That means that a vast array of devices from video cards to digital cameras will give users headaches. Apple, on the other hand, in Snow Leopard, will offer a 64-bit operating system and a full array of 64-bit drivers.

    The result? Unlike with an Apple-produced system, hardware compatibility for Windows is out of Microsoft’s hands, and the end user’s experience will be uncertain. That doesn’t sound huge, until you consider that for an average user to upgrade to Vista or Windows 7 means they must render obsolete considerable amounts of previous hardware investments.

    Apple’s approach to this is very different: they have manufactured and maintain a vast and tightly controlled digital ecosystem, of which Mac OS X is only one (very small) part. Software upgrades always take into account the totality of this ecosystem, and compatibility is assured.

    It’s no longer about Windows vs. Mac OS X, as you’re arguing. It’s about what kind of summary hardware-software-environmental solution is being presented to the end user. Microsoft has a tremendously difficult time seeing past the old school OS-PC paradigm. The industry has evolved well beyond that, as Apple is demonstrating as the only PC manufacturer experiencing growth during a recession.

    My angle with this post is this: Windows is okay, but it’s just a piece of the puzzle, from an end user perspective.

    Microsoft needs to seize a greater degree of control of what they produce and what the end user receives, as a full experiential package. The “Vista Capable” debacle is an excellent example of why they need to do this. So is WinMo: this platform sucks exactly because Microsoft leaves the hardware solution up to third parties. They can’t depend on OEMs as they have done to date; that era of computing is over and, as Apple is proving, it’s an unsustainable model.

    Should Microsoft begin producing the hardware component of PCs? Maybe. Or maybe they just need to exert some creative thinking (something lacking in Redmond) and come up with an even better solution.

  3. Yeah, I wanted to read that article you referenced, but it’s gone. Thanks for what I assume is paraphrasing here.

    I’m not arguing about Windows vs. OS X. Rather, I am presenting how I feel about Windows 7 compared to previous versions of Windows, and in particular, Vista. As for all of the usual chatter – how Microsoft fails because it doesn’t control its own tech ecosystem – while I agree, it’s not the end of the world for all Windows users like the media wants us to believe.

    I, for one, have never had a compatibility problem with Windows and my various devices, none of which are Microsoft-produced. Each one has worked seamlessly from first connection to the last. I know this isn’t the case for some people, but it has been for me. I also happen to have had good experiences with files and documents from one Microsoft product to another.

    As for Microsoft producing its own hardware, well, I think that’s moving in the wrong direction for the company. Sure, Microsoft has had its stumbles transferring more of its business to the “cloud” (ugh, I dislike that term) but then, so has Apple in a major way with MobileMe.

    We’ll all get there eventually and if Microsoft can somehow pull it off with as few hiccups as possible, they’ll be in the power position given their resources, which are magnitudes larger and more complete (servers, server software) than that of Apple.

    In regards to pushing creative boundaries, there seems to be a new generation of Microsoft employees, especially in Canada, who are thinking and behaving this way already, and their impact is already being felt, especially in the industry I work in. Microsoft is a mighty big ship to turn around.

  4. LOL, funny place for a chat. Just one more thought on that last point you mention: Microsoft is TOO big. Too big for its own good, in fact.

    This was illustrated just a couple weeks back when the executive body contradicted itself by saying there’ll be layoffs and new hires to replace them all in one conference call. This is a company approaching 100,000 on payroll suffering under lame management. That makes not just a behemoth, but a daft behemoth.

    Microsoft’s just not agile enough to adapt, and its current leadership doesn’t even realize that it has to adapt. We’re in the middle of a significant evolution to a new era of distributed, RT-based computing, and Microsoft’s still dicking around with an overweight desktop OS.

    I believe it’s too late for Microsoft: the company must first crumble and break before it changes, and we’re starting to see the cracks in its foundation already with that faltering last quarter.

    One case in point: syncing a WinMo device to a Windows PC. With Mac, it’s connect and go (iPhone to iTunes). But most Windows PCs don’t even ship with the required software for performing this very basic function (it’s an undocumented download). My experience syncing a WinMo device to my Windows laptop was so painful, in fact, it led me to just get rid of the mobile device.

    These are the sorts of things that Microsoft has to get under control, because Apple’s setting a new bar that all others must meet or exceed to compete. Consumers just won’t stand for that level of incompatibility between devices that should just be able to naturally “talk” to one another!

  5. Actually, I think Microsoft does “get it”. They’ve learned from their mistakes with Vista on a lot of levels, and you can see it in the Windows 7 beta.

    And not just in the beta itself (though I’m frankly pretty impressed with it), but with the way they’re handling it. Instead of leaking a bunch of specific, promised features as they did with the “Longhorn” previews–most of which were dropped before RTM–Microsoft is actually pretty quiet about the stated aims of Windows 7, and they’re letting the beta speak for itself.

    This is not “The Wow Starts Now”. This is a tighter, better-performing kernal. It’s a UI that builds incrementally on the major change that came with Vista, with the welcome surprise that it all works as promised. It’s the opportunity to make the cut-over to 64-bit. And, yes, it’s “Vista done right.” They’re not making grandiose promises here.

    And as for the beta itself… I intentionally installed it on less-than-stellar hardware (the cheapest LGA775 dual-core I could find, on a board that could still accomodate an AGP video card). NO problem with driver support (and, yes, I used the 64-bit preview), few app problems (even with 5 year-old kids games), and remarkable stability. And note that some long-time Mac users have expressed their approval for the new “SuperBar” in the Win7 beta.

    I still like Vista, but I acknowledge that it hasn’t been the product Microsoft promised us. If the current pitch is any indication, things have changed considerably.

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