Microsoft might want to exorcise Windows XP and Vista from the world's PCs (because if you're running old software, you've not given Microsoft any cash in a while), but the company's own attitudes to how consumers get their hands on operating systems is a big part of the reason why people are running old operating systems.
The king of the operating systems is still XP, an OS that powers some 60% of corporate systems and around 50% of systems overall. By comparison, Vista's corporate presence is down to just over 6% (for comparison, Mac OS X is at 11% and Linux at 1.4%). Windows 7 is at a healthy 21%. These corporate numbers match overall worldwide usage share pretty closely.
OK, so what can Microsoft do to help boost adoption of new versions of Windows? Well, when it comes to corporate systems, my colleague Ed Bott is right when he says that 'When it comes to Windows, businesses like being on the last version, not the current one.' It's as fact of life.
But what about home users?
This is where Microsoft is lacking. Rather than try to sell consumers the next version of Windows, Microsoft has relied on OEMs to push new PCs (new PCs running the new OS) at consumers. This way Microsoft can focus on selling Windows licenses to OEMs, and let the OEMs do the hard work of selling Windows (with a new PC attached) to consumers.
It's been a winning model for decades, but in recent years it's hit a speed bump for a trifecta of reasons - people aren't spending like they used to; what they are spending on is being spread across a broader range of technologies (smartphone, tablets, etc); and because people's PCs are lasting longer than they used to. So, while Microsoft is making money, it's in a position where it's not making anywhere near as much cash as it could be making because more than half of the systems out there are running an OS that hasn't see a service pack in over three years.
Microsoft also fouled up with Windows Vista/7 but not building in a direct upgrade path to it from Windows XP. This meant that a huge percentage of Windows users had to nuke their systems and start from scratch. This might be the preferred upgrade path for power users, but for ordinary users this is a huge effort to contemplate.
Microsoft needs to realize that people want access to the latest OS without having to buy a new PC. This means that three things need to be in place for them:
- Easy access to the update ... over the Internet make sense. This is a no brainer. If having as many users as possible on the latest version of Windows is important to the ecosystem, then make access to the new version as easy as possible.
- Cheap upgrade price. Cheaper the upgrade, the more people will buy it. I don't need to draw a diagram explaining this, do I? A Windows 7 Home Premium upgrade costs $120, which in my opinion is at least $60 too expensive.
- 'No-drag'upgrade path Ordinary folks (not like you and me, we're special ...) want an easy upgrade mechanism that involves a few clicks, making a cup of coffee and then coming back to a PC running a new OS. If you make it complicated by demanding that folks wipe their systems and stuff like that, people will get understandably nervous. Stop giving people reasons NOT to install your new OS!