May 18, 2008

Wharton's view of Vista

Image Courtesy of Andréia

I'm lucky. Because I recently bought a Macbook I didn't have to go down the route of getting a new PC pre-installed with Windows Vista on it. Had I done so, I would have had to remove it and drop a (legal) copy of XP on there so that I could be comfortable in using it. The general consensus everywhere in the world (apart from Redmond) is that Vista has, shall we say, 'issues' (although having said that, C-Net are reporting that Bill Gates is pushing Windows 7 as a better alternative to Vista so maybe Redmond have recognised the issues).

The Wharton group have produced a report on Vista, (Microsoft's Vista: New Horizon or the End of the Road for PC Operating Systems?) which they have quite cleverly linked in with the Yahoo/MSFT failed merger, by indicating that the merger has been something of a distraction to Microsoft and with that out of the way they will be able to focus on 'repairing' Vista and making it useful.

The article itself is quite long and a little detailed, but picking the bones out of it I would highlight the following:

1) Nearly 16 months after Microsoft launched Vista, the company is still trying to convince some consumers of the operating system's merit. Vista "is a disappointment," says Shawndra Hill, operations and information management professor at Wharton and a Vista customer. "It's too complicated. We had Windows XP and were using it fine. Then Microsoft decided to provide us with something new. But there wasn't anything really new" about it.

2) "There is just a lack of enthusiasm for Vista among consumers"

3) Microsoft finds itself at a crossroads, according to Werbach. "The platform for most uses of PCs today is the Internet, not Windows. Windows plays an important role in the ecosystem, but it's not the center of the world in the way it used to be. Microsoft has made several attempts to integrate Windows and the web, but the center of gravity for innovation and monetization keeps moving to the network. Microsoft needs to decide whether it cares more about the next 5 to 10 years, or the 20 years after that."
The interesting thing from a Mac point of view is that this is now at a similar stage to where the Mac OS was a number of years ago. From a fairly universally derided upgrade of the Mac OS, Apple were successfully able to turn that around and produce what is now considered to be one of the better operating systems around.

Can Microsoft do the same?

I would argue that the environment is now so totally different that this may not be possible. As the article states, the platform for most PC's is the internet not Windows. Maybe the advent of such systems as Linux (and it's variants) along with Open Source equivalents of many of today's prime software packages means that more and more people will start to look at alternate hardware/software combinations to do their thing.

Also worth checking out on the article is a number of the comments that are attached to it. There are some real doozies: "It is like having a 747 plane flying on a regional route', and "It is incredibly slow, it is capricious and it is user-surly". However my favourite is actually the user who says the following: "Vista is just fine as long as some parameters are observed. Clean off the "crapware" from the computer, ensure that all drivers supplied by the OEM are up-to-date, and be sure that your hardware is Vista compatible and your computer is new enough, has the power, and the RAM to handle Vista. If you do that, problems are almost non-existent", which I translate as "Take the computer you now have, get rid of it and buy a bigger, more robust, more powerful one, make a clean install of the operating system with nothing that might cause it to be unstable, and then it will work. Probably"

I wonder how many other manufacturers work on that basis? More to the point, how long before Microsoft become the 21st century equivalent of Henry Ford? Ford thought he knew what his customers wanted better than his customers did and dictated what cars they could have, while rivals Chevrolet listened to their customers and gave them different options and (famously) different colour's. Before long Chevrolet was the leader in the automobile sales game and the two companies have been battling ever since.

Can you see parallels between Ford/Chevrolet and Microsoft/Apple?

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