20 million Vista licenses equals a lot of unhappy customers

Summary:A press release from Microsoft yesterday detailed that Windows Vista consumer license sales had exceeded 20 million in the US alone, double the pace set by Windows XP when it was released. This has got to be good for Microsoft's bottom line, but what I'm seeing on the ground is a lot of unhappy customers caught up in all sorts of problems.

A press release from Microsoft yesterday detailed that Windows Vista consumer license sales had exceeded 20 million in the US alone, double the pace set by Windows XP when it was released.  This has got to be good for Microsoft's bottom line, but what I'm seeing on the ground is a lot of unhappy customers caught up in all sorts of problems.

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I'm in a position where I get a lot of feedback (through channels such as my blog, here at ZDNet and over on CNET) from users of all technical levels, from very basic to power users, and what I'm seeing is a lot of unhappy people.

These unhappy Vista users fall into two categories:

  • The first group of unhappy Vista users seem to be those who have bought a new PC but who are trying to get all their old hardware and software to work on it.  The core PC system runs fine with Vista (as would be expected) but things change when legacy hardware and software is installed.
  • The second are the users who upgraded their existing hardware to Vista from a previous version of Windows .  This seems to be a much smaller group of people (as a rough rule of thumb, those who buy new PCs seem to outnumber those upgrading an existing system about 10 to 1) but they're experiencing more serious problems, ranging from not being able to use certain legacy hardware or software to complete system meltdown.
    In the second category we also have those folks who bought a new PC before Vista was released and who were eligible for an Express Upgrade.  Back when this program was introduced late October last year I expressed concerns that users would find upgrading tricky.  Seems I was right.

To be honest, I'm not surprised that Vista sales are beating what XP managed at launch. The PC market is much bigger now than it was back when XP was released.  I'm also not surprised that more people are having more problems.  Back when XP was released, the average "upgrader" wasn't just "tech aware" in that they knew that a new OS was available, they were a lot more "tech savvy" than the kinds of people that I'm seeing trying to upgrade to Vista.  XP upgraders expected problems and had a plan to deal with them, Vista upgraders seem to expect the whole process to be pain-free.  From personal experience, I can testify that there are times when things get very ugly indeed when upgrading.

Another odd thing that I'm seeing is a fairly substantial number of people who tried to upgrade to Vista who have then gone back to their previous OS.  They gave Vista a go and just couldn't make it work for them so they uninstalled it and rolled back.  And these aren't people who managed to get their hands on a copy and installed it as a trial, these are folks who paid good money for the software.  Some say that they'll give Vista another try at some future date but others seem happy to stick with what they've got.  Given the cost of an upgrade, this must really suck.

I'm a pretty big fan of Windows Vista, but I've very aware of the fact that upgrading to it is going to be traumatic for some (upgrading an OS is always going to be traumatic for some people).  And I should put my hand up and state that while I’ve been very happy with my own upgrade to Vista, I still haven’t integrated (or replaced) all of the hardware that I had on XP previously.  The hype surrounding Vista (along with promises of free/reduced cost upgrades for new PC owners) is driving a lot of people who really don't know what's involved in doing an upgrade into some really sticky tar pits.

Things will get better.  Many people accuse hardware and software vendors for not having drivers and patches ready for when Vista was released, but this isn't how things seem to happen.  The same has been true for previous releases of Windows and will probably be true for future releases.  The first few months after the release of a OS is by far the most painful upgrade period.  If you want to avoid pain, you'd do well to wait a few months before attempting an upgrade.

Thoughts?  What kind of feedback have you been getting from those upgrading to Vista?  What kind of advice have you been giving to people thinking about upgrading?

Topics: Windows

About

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is an internationally published technology author who has devoted over a decade to helping users get the most from technology -- whether that be by learning to program, building a PC from a pile of parts, or helping them get the most from their new MP3 player or digital camera.Adrian has authored/co-authored technic... Full Bio

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