Tag Archives: Microsoft

How Microsoft is snatching Windows 7 defeat from the jaws of victory

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. 

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Microsoft drops European Windows plan, so where next for upgrades?

PC Advisor:

“It’s unclear how Microsoft will deal with customers who have already pre-ordered Windows 7E and paid the upgrade price but were told they would receive a full-package edition.

Ironically, the users who may be most affected by the return of two-tier pricing are those who use Macs, but want to run Windows in a virtual machine. While PC owners typically upgrade from an older OS to a new – and so can get by with the cheaper upgrades – users who run Windows in a virtual environment often create the ‘machines’ from scratch, and so require a full-package version.”

One of the ironic things about Microsoft throwing a bit of a tantrum and not selling upgrade versions was that it actually simplified the product line and made it easier to understand. I pre-ordered a copy of Win7 which I’ll use on my MacBook Pro’s Boot Camp partition, because it was a full version – otherwise, I’d have stuck with XP (all I use it for is a couple of legacy apps and one game).

In fact, I was about to order a second copy for my netbook – but we’ll see whether it’s still going to be a full version rather than an upgrade. If it’s an upgrade, I won’t bother. Ubuntu Netbook Remix or Moblin will go on there instead.

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Ballmer predicts Windows PC 2010 = Macintosh 2008

More from the analyst’s meeting with Steve Ballmer:

“Ballmer told analysts there would be a new class of “ultra-thin” PCs” — or high-end netbooks –coming this year that would combine the light weight of netbooks with high-power and high-performance of traditional PCs.

‘When I talk to many of our customers, they say ‘I love the Netbook but can I get one with a bigger screen?” Ballmer said.

Those new ultra-thin PCs, the first of which will be coming later this year and, presumably running Windows 7, won’t be as cheap as $299 or $399 netbooks, Ballmer admitted, but they will combine netbooks’ portability, with some unnamed but higher-sounding prices that will make shareholders, analysts and Microsoft happy.”

I don’t know about you, but I think that someone already makes something rather like that. Maybe it would be better to buy now, rather than wait to see what the other guys come up with?

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Watch out, Mac-using analysts: Ballmer knows where you live

Via Joe Wilcox, comes this bit of Steve Ballmer’s speech to financial analysts:

“We have low share, by the way, in the investor audience. I can see the Apple logos versus the PC logos. So we have more work to do, more work to do. Our share is lower in this audience than the average audience. But don’t hide it. I’ve already counted them. I have been doing that since we started talking. (Laughter.) Anyway, we’ve got a bank of them right here in the middle. I know where they all are. One over here on the side. But anyway, that’s OK. Feel free as long as you’re using Office to go right on ahead.”

My guess is that the average financial analyst doesn’t spend less than $1,000 on a laptop…


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Daring Fireball is wrong about Microsoft’s weakness

I am, you’ll have noted, an argumentative sod. This is a great source of irritation to my dear other half, who rolls her eyes as I shout at the television or Internet. But sometimes, you read something and… well… you just have to respond.

Such is the case with John Gruber’s post on “Microsoft’s long, slow decline“. Now I should make this clear: John’s a very smart fellow and a terrific writer. I have huge respect for him. But his post is also riddled with more than a few canards and non sequiturs which make it sound like something is happening which, honestly, isn’t. Continue reading

Chrome OS is not a threat to Windows « GartenBlog

“Launching a new PC OS is not easy even if your target is a cloud. Targeting netbooks in 2010 isn’t the answer either. As I’ve pointed out, netbook are laptops with a pivotal axis of price. We’re seeing netbooks with 12″ screens, full sized keyboards and 300gb of storage. Does anyone think that netbooks aren’t going to evolve further? Consumers have overwhelmingly rejected Linux flavored netbooks for Windows capable machines that they could actually accomplish things on, such as run PC applications.” 

While I disagree about netbooks being only about the price, Michael is completely correct to point out that customers have generally rejected Linux-based netbooks in favour of Windows ones. Although I think there’s a lot of mileage in improving the Linux experience on netbooks (and Moblin/UNR are already ahead here), given the choice I would expect the majority of people to buy Windows.

Of course, the key question is whether they’ll continue to have that choice, given Microsoft’s transition to Windows 7. But given the date of Chrome OS’ release, which isn’t until some time next year, we’ll know the answer to that question before Chrome comes out.

Another thing to note: Chrome (the browser) has had almost no success in gaining market share. And a whole OS is a much more difficult sell to consumers than a browser. If I was a betting man, I wouldn’t bet on Chrome OS getting more than single-digit market share any time soon.

Posted via web from Ian Betteridge’s lifestream

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Windows 7, Mac OS X and Ubuntu: A Tale of Three Operating Systems

Joe Wilcox picks up on a comment that I made on his post about Windows 7 and its relationship to the Mac:

“As you know, Joe, I’m a Mac to Linux switcher (with over 20 years Mac use under my belt). But I’m also a tinkerer who’s curious about OS’s, so I’ve been running Windows 7 as my main system for a month or two. Count me amongst the impressed. Microsoft has actually applied some real serious effort to the user interface design, taken some of Apple’s ideas, and made them better. That it’s much, much faster than Vista is a bonus.

Mac fans should take a serious look at 7—not because it will persuade them to switch, but because it’s the first serious competition from Microsoft in quite some time.”

Joe’s timing is impeccable, as in a couple of weeks I’ll be switching my main computer back to Ubuntu from Windows 7. But the reason isn’t exasperation with Windows 7, and it’s not one that should give Mac fans hoping that the new Microsoft OS will be a failure any kind of comfort.

Continue reading

The Microsoft “Lauren” ads are right

Joe Wilcox is right: The Microsoft “I’m not cool enough for a Mac” campaign has really struck a nerve. The Mac sites are abuzz with rebuttals, cries of foul, and general wailing and gnashing of teeth.

The reason for the attention is probably because there’s a grain of truth in what Microsoft is saying. The argument is pretty simple: the limited range of Mac models means that you can end up paying way over your budget to get a single feature. If you want a 17in machine and don’t want to pay an eye-watering £1,949, you’re out of luck. Yes, you get a lot of machine for that £1,949 – but some people just don’t require all the features that you get with a Mac.

This is exactly the argument that I made in my post on why I switched from Mac to Linux, and it’s one that the more fervant Mac promoters either don’t comprehend or willfully ignore.

I needed a 15in screen. However, I didn’t need two graphics cards, a 1GHz system bus, or the absolute top-end performance that I could have got from a MacBook Pro.

That meant that paying £1800 for one would have been bad value for me, giving me features that I just don’t need or want. In the end, I paid £900 for a Dell XPS 1530 which gives me all the features I needed at half the price. As I put it in my swtiching post:

“This, incidentally, is one of the often-forgotten twists to the whole ‘are Macs value for money?’ question. Compared to an identical-specced PC, they sometimes are. But often, users don’t need the features or power one of the Macs delivers. It’s not ‘value for money’ to pay for a machine with features you don’t need, unless they’re free or very cheap. In my case, for example, paying £1400 [the price has since risen] simply so I could have a 15in screen, when I don’t need a 1GHz system bus or two graphics cards can’t be considered good ‘value for money’.”

But does this mean Apple is doing something wrong? Not necessarily. Apple’s strategy since Jobs’ return has been to limit the number of different models deliberately, refusing to be driven into the “niche” market strategy of a Dell or HP where there’s a large (and often confusing) range of machines. This makes sense when you’re a small player, as it makes buying decisions easy for the customer and reduces the company’s overheads (lower stock, lower marketing costs, etc).

However, it also means – and Mac fans might not like to accept this – that there are plenty of people for whom buying a Mac makes no sense. I was one of those cases, and “Lauren” is another one. The key question is whether, in a tight economy, this kind of definition of value becomes more important – whether getting “the best machine for your needs and budget” triumphs over “the best machine, period”.

There is, though, one cloud on the horizon which makes me wonder if Apple’s strategy is sustainable. For the past month or so, I’ve temporarily put Linux to one side to do some serious testing of Windows 7, and there’s no doubt in my mind that as a consumer operating system it significantly closes the gap between Windows and Mac.

With Windows Vista, the difference was obvious. Vista was a pain in the behind to use, thanks largely to an over-zealous implementation of User Account Control and performance issues on slower machines. Win7 fixes those, adds in some nice features of its own, and generally looks like a serious contender.

This leaves the Mac with two key advantages: security, and applications. Apple and its advocates have done a great job of beating Microsoft over the head about security, but it’s really a non-issue day-to-day as long as you have up to date anti-virus software. And Microsoft has seriously raised its game with regard to writing more secure code.

Where Apple’s advantage still lies is in applications – quality, rather than quantity. Much as I loathe its stupid use of a non-open default formats, iWork really rocks. Despite silly quirks, iLife is lovely, and Final Cut Express is a great piece of software. Third parties keep churning out exceptionally cool applications, from Omni Group’s brilliant OmniGraffle, OmniPlan and OmniFocus through to the delicious Bento.

Mac applications beat the crap out of their Windows equivalents. Despite the fact that Windows has many times the number of applications, I can think of no occasion when, given a free choice, I’d use any Window app rather than the Mac alternative. Even Microsoft’s own Mac applications are better than their Windows counterparts.

I still have lots of issues which Apple’s failure to use and encourage open formats, which will keep me off the platform. But I think that Apple needs to recognise that, as with the iPhone, applications are a strength on the Mac – and promote the platform accordingly.

What Apple did right with the iPhone

Alan Patrick sums it up nicely:

“In fact its indicative of the industry’s malaise that Apple made such a big splash by making a phone that merely “did” the ‘Net easily, loaded applications quickly, and had a decent size screen. Hardly revolutionary technology, but they came as a shock to the mobile industry. Putting the user’s need first – how totally innovative!”

Just like the old saying “Only Nixon could go to China”, I often think “Only Apple could do the iPhone” – not because the technology is wildly novel, but because only someone as ballsy as Steve Jobs could force the telcos to not mess things up. Jobs’ real genius was forcing AT&T to accept unlimited Internet that really meant unlimited, not allowing any walled gardens in access, and refusing to carry network-specific applications.

In other words, remembering that “the customer” is the end user – not the networks.

There’s an interesting parallel here with Microsoft, too. Although Microsoft has always sold plenty of product direct to end-users, for years there’s been a very real sense that its actual customers were IT managers and directors – hence its focus on features in Windows for them, occasionally at the expense of the people who actually have to use the machines.

Microsoft is, I think, realising that this isn’t a wise approach anymore: That even though its bread and butter remains the enterprise market, that market is now, at least in part, driven by the desires of end-users. The iPhone has proved to be a stealth weapon for Apple in the corporate market, with IT people being hassled to support it as a way of accessing corporate mail and so on. This is a horrific idea for Microsoft – any appearance of the Apple logo in corporates rings big alarm bells in Redmond.

The interesting question – and one I’ll leave open – is if Microsoft has the ability to turn its focus around, and target consumers rather than IT managers. In my limited experience of Windows 7 so far, I think the answer might be “yes” – but until I’ve had a good long play, and run into the inevitable “gotchas”, I’ll reserve judgement.