Windows Vista: The 'New Coke' of the PC age
Microsoft's XP gets its final service pack next week. But users fight for a stay of execution.
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Last weekend Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer came very close to admitting that Vista has not, to put it mildly, lived up to its hype. Speaking at the MVP Global Summit in Seattle, Mr. Ballmer described Vista as a "work in progress." (Maybe the Titanic was a work in progress as well.) He said Microsoft waited too long to release Vista after rolling out XP in 2001. (Remember all those commercials with the Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up" playing in the background?)Skip to next paragraph
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"I got a piece of mail from a customer the other day that talked about not being able to get XP anymore, and we responded: XP is still available," said Ballmer. "And I know we're going to continue to get feedback from people on how long XP should be available. We've got some opinions on that.
"Certainly, you never want to let five years go between releases. And we just sort of kiss that stone and move on, because it turns out many things become problematic when you have those long release cycles," Ballmer added.
Really? We hadn't noticed. Then again, maybe that's why a recent study by Forrester Research of 50,000 enterprise computer users found that only 6.7 percent were working with Vista. And that's after more than a year of Vista being on the market.
If there is one person who understands how Microsoft works, it's journalist/former evangelist for Microsoft/video blogger for Fast Company magazine Robert Scoble. He told me that he believes the folks at Microsoft are realists. "If people want [XP], they'll keep supporting it."
Mr. Scoble says Vista had a lot going against it from the beginning.
The developers "started to build a 100-story building," he says. "They got it to 60 and it started to buckle and sway back and forth. So they had to take the whole thing down and rebuild it from the foundation up. And they only got to 40 stories and stopped. So it's still a good 40-story building, but it's not what we were expecting or had been led to believe would be available."
Ballmer has said he will be "sensitive" to the needs of XP users as the execution date nears. Microsoft has already said it will continue to offer XP for makers of low-cost laptop computers that just do not have the computing power to run the massive Vista code. No word on if the rest of us will be able to enjoy that.
Maybe Microsoft will learn from its mistakes and keep XP alive until they actually come up with something better.
But as Scoble adds, the problems with Vista have already damaged the Microsoft brand – and more important, it has negatively affected the company's market share. Microsoft has never had to deal with such issues before. It will be interesting to see what the company does to try to recover.