I made the point with rather more swearing on Twitter yesterday, but Joe Wilcox says it without the bad language:
“After commandingly executing Windows 7 development, Microsoft had run off the track right before the finish line. Suddenly, Windows 7 is a disaster potentially like its predecessor. Could anything be worse than Vista?”
What’s the cause of our ire? The insane hoops that Microsoft is making customers jump through to upgrade to its latest and greatest operating system. In response to a query from Walt Mossberg about the upgrade process for different legacy versions of Windows, Microsoft a chart which consist of 6×11 matrix, 66 different options, and a few hundred words explaining the different options.
On one hand, I can understand Microsoft’s predicament. There are a lot of potential versions of Windows that you can upgrade from, and testing all of them with all the different widgets, bits and pieces is tricky to do and even trickier to explain.
But it’s not the explanation that is at fault: it’s the fact that Windows XP users, the people who Microsoft most needs to get to upgrade to Windows 7, will have to perform a complete wipe-and-reinstall of Windows, plus every application they have, plus all their drivers, and restore all their files from a backup.
I’ve done this a few times. It’s not trivial. It’s not fun. And for the average consumer, it will be a terrible experience as they have to look through old boxes trying to find original install disks, root through their email for download and license details, and generally go through a day’s work.
Here’s the deal: Microsoft cannot consider Windows 7 finished until there is a single-click upgrade from Windows XP. If it ships the product without one, it will miss out on millions of potential upgrades, cause its users considerable pain, and leave Apple laughing all the way to the bank next time those users upgrade their computer.
Windows 7 is a good operating system – in some ways better than the current version of OS X. If Microsoft messes up its release it will not get another opportunity from a big chunk of its consumer customers, and will be handing Apple another couple of points of market share on a plate.
This might not sound too bad when you consider the commanding lead that Microsoft has in operating system market share. In my next post, I’ll write about why it’s not only bad news – it could spell disaster for Microsoft, and turn John Gruber’s prediction into reality faster than even he imagines.