Thursday, July 26, 2007

The train wreck that is Windows Vista

There is little doubt that Windows Vista has abysmal adoption. Earlier this year, many computer vendors brought back the Windows XP option with new computers. Even today, you can get Windows XP on laptops and desktops from Lenovo and Dell. You can check with your favorite vendor, and most probably, they'll ship Windows XP.

Now there's this: the Acer president criticizing Vista.

This is a sign of the times. At first, poor adoption was limited to the tech-savvy, it has now grown to the non tech-savvy, as well as business partners of Microsoft. Despite what Microsoft may claim, the fact that most major vendors continue to offer XP as an option speaks poorly of Microsoft's new OS.

It is no surprise that businesses are going to wait a long time before deploying Vista as well.

Even though Microsoft continues to make money whether XP or Vista is sold, it is a very poor sign when your aging, five year old OS is doing better than your latest OS. Remember, we're talking about a purely software company, not a hardware or service company. And also remember that they had five years to develop this software. And that Windows and Office are the only two product lines that make Microsoft money. I hope you're still comfortable holding Microsoft stock after reading that.

I might not know much about developing software, but this group took five years to develop something. At the very least it should be better than what they already had.

A few points come to mind:
  1. Complacence: This mirrors the Firefox -- Internet Explorer story. When Internet Explorer captured too much of the market, they grew complacent. What Firefox did to Internet Explorer is being done to Vista by Windows XP (and Mac OS, and Linux).
  2. Talk is Cheap: No amount of marketing can sell crap. My dentist (and he is a venerable 60 year old) is not a computer geek. In his words, " can put lipstick on a pig, but nobody's going to buy it..." He was talking about Windows Vista. Techy customers are quite jaded when it comes to the numerous Microsoft announcements, especially after years of product announcements that are just talk. Now even the lay customers are seeing through the hype.
  3. DRM: It is difficult to say how much this is a backlash against DRM, but clearly it plays a part. Vista drivers have to rewritten from scratch because of the DRM. As a result, XP has better hardware support than Vista. And techy customers loath the Vista DRM.
  4. Vendors' Misfortune: For hardware vendors, the only non-Microsoft option is Linux. Apple is absolute about refusing to let OS X run on non-Apple hardware: it is even enforced in the Mac OS X EULA. So for hardware vendors Windows XP and Linux are the only options. Dell already sells machines pre-installed with Ubuntu, and if you have noticed, their Ubuntu product lines are increasing.
  5. Microsoft Lacks Options: Unlike the Windows ME debacle, Microsoft doesn't have a second OS line that it can rely on. Windows ME was also a train wreck, but it took less time to develop. When Microsoft realized that it was a disaster, they were able to repackage the NT kernel in Windows XP. Right now, I am not aware of a second product line that can take this slack. In effect, vendors falling back on Window XP shows that everyone is looking for the second line. Windows XP is now saving two train-wrecks worth of customers: Windows ME and Windows Vista.