From the 'I'm glad I'm not a Vista salesperson' files

Summary:I feel for the folks hawking Vista right now. There are too many conflicting pieces of information coming out of Redmond to figure out what to tell customers -- especially business customers -- who are wondering when/whether to upgrade. Consider the evidence.

All the recent career advice I've received from Mac zealots has really got me thinking about my future. (The "go back to baking muffins and taking care of the kids" e-mail from one reader definitely gave me food for thought.)

If I ever decide to hang up my blogging hat, there's one job I've already ruled out: Windows Vista sales/marketing. (Actually, I should make that two jobs ruled out: The other is working at the Genius Bar at an Apple store.)

I feel for the folks hawking Vista right now. There are too many conflicting pieces of information coming out of Redmond to figure out what to tell customers -- especially business customers -- who are wondering when/whether to upgrade. Consider the evidence:

Exhibit 1: The "Don't Wait for Vista SP1" fact pack. APC Magazine has the skinny on a new set of marketing materials Microsoft is circulating among its OEM partners that they can use to convince customers that they shouldn't wait for Vista Service Pack (SP) 1 to deploy. "To help partners and customers get the real story, Microsoft has created a comprehensive set of fact-rich materials illustrating how Windows Vista is ready today and tomorrow," according to the blurb for the fact pack. (My ZDNet blogging colleague Adrian Kingsley-Hughes has more on the fact pack.) Many business users -- in spite of Microsoft's proclamations -- have a policy of waiting for at least SP1 for any operating system before upgrading.

Exhibit 2: How to downgrade to XP is at the top of Microsoft's "Top 5 Licensing Questions." In a posting to Microsoft's UK Partner Team blog, a Microsoft employee lists the five questions most often asked last month via the "Ask Partner" Hotline. The most commonly asked question was "What downgrade rights does Windows Vista Business have?" (Not a question you want to hear asked if you are trying to convince customers that upgrading, not downgrading, is the way to go.) The second most frequently asked question: "What media and key can I use when downgrading?" Again, not exactly a resounding endorsement of Vista from volume licensees.

Exhibit 3: Vista is still a work in progress. Microsoft released Vista to manufacturing in November 2006, seven months ago. This week, we learned that Microsoft has decided to head off more messy, protracted antitrust litigation by agreeing to make changes to Vista to accommodate third-party desktop-search products. (All those new Google lawyers and lobbyists in Washington must be a formidable bunch!) Microsoft will deliver some of the required changes via Vista Service Pack (SP) 1 -- a first beta of which some of my sources were expecting to see this summer, but now may show up any time between now and December 31 (based on what Microsoft has told federal regulators).

Unlike "Marketing Pilgrim" Andy Beal, I don't think Microsoft wants to postpone SP1, at this point. I think the company realizes its attempt to get customers to change their SP1-waiting ways hasn't worked. All the Vista SP1 secrecy has backfired and drawn more attention to the whereabouts of the Vista update.

What do you think Microsoft's Vista marketing team can and should do to end customer confusion and uncertainty around Vista? If you were a Vista marketer/salesperson, what would you be telling customers, at this point?

Topics: Microsoft, Windows

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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