More frequent upgrades? That's the last thing Microsoft customers need

More frequent upgrades? That's the last thing Microsoft customers need

Summary: In Ina Fried's article Microsoft's 'big bang' could be its last, I couldn't disagree more with Gartner fellow Tom Bittman's comment that Windows XP (or any other Microsoft product) is "stuck in the weeds..." Windows XP SP2 is NOT the same product today that Windows XP was in 2000.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Microsoft
11

In Ina Fried's article Microsoft's 'big bang' could be its last, I couldn't disagree more with Gartner fellow Tom Bittman's comment that Windows XP (or any other Microsoft product) is "stuck in the weeds..."

Windows XP SP2 is NOT the same product today that Windows XP was in 2000. It is dramatically improved -- more stable, more security conscious, more reliable -- though not generally more feature-rich.

The problem for Microsoft is not that Vista will come out five years after XP was first released. The problem is that Microsoft does not make any money off of interim releases (Service Packs), so it must make up those upgrade costs on pricey retail sales and on OEM sales of new systems. The enterprise balked at Software Assurance and customers constantly complain about the high cost of upgrades.

But what about the competition?

Like Windows XP, the last four releases of Mac OSX (that's 10.1, 10.2, 10.3, and now 10.4) were virtually identical (feature-wise) to the original and yet EACH required a new license -- and, in many cases, applications software upgrades. In contrast, over that same period, Windows XP Service Pack 1 and SP2 were released (along with a long list of security and performance updates) and all were free. No one complained about the cost of the Mac OS X upgrades -- but Microsoft didn't lose any market share to Apple during that period either.

Yes, Microsoft would benefit financially from fewer "service packs" and more frequent "featureless upgrades" and the associated license fees but, in the end, the consumer and the enterprise would spend more money and the enterprise would be even more reticent to upgrade between releases.

So what about the Linux factor?

Well, I am not so sure that Linux is any more feature-rich today than it was when Windows XP shipped either, but I do know that the retail prices of fully supported Linux servers and clients are about the same as those from Microsoft So where are those disgruntled Microsoft customers going to go to get all those new features?

It would certainly be to Microsoft's advantage to be able to deliver more features at a faster pace in order to generate customer interest in upgrading (and thus spending more money), but perhaps right now Microsoft needs to be paying more attention to those markets where they fall short -- not on the desktop but in the server room.

If Microsoft wants to stay on top, they need to be able to compete for the lucrative server business. They don't need to add features. They need to improve performance so they can truly compete with UNIX on the high-end of the TCO scale and with Linux on the low-end of the TCO scale.

Ease of use goes a long way when dealing with the consumer -- but price-performance is a far more valuable commodity to the enterprise than low upfront costs or pretty new bells and whistles.

Topic: Microsoft

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

11 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • AUGH, no more "upgrades"

    talk to ANY techy or geek or even computer user about operating systems and eventually you'll get to this overwhelmingly universal sentiment:

    STOP WORKING ON NEW OS'S. TAKE EXTRA TIME AND JUST GET ONE RIGHT.

    "hey, new windows is coming out."
    "Man... just get one RIGHT and i'll be happy..."
    Valis Keogh
    • Really?

      I guess MS pulling away and delaying Vista to get XP right doesn't count...right? You just keep living in the past with your head in the sand.
      IT Scion
  • Agreed.

    Just to reinforce one point:

    Microsoft makes money selling upgrades. That means new versions with features people want that were not in the older versions.

    The subscription model is not going to work for most customers.

    So Microsoft has to make an event of a new version in order to encourage potential customers to spend money.
    Five years was too long between events, though.

    A free product doesn't have to worry about this problem, but staying in existence does take some attention.

    A complication comes from the fact that many potential customers look at the new feature set and decide they can do without an upgrade. This was particularly true of the W2K to XP upgrade.

    So a reason to add features during a product's life is to accumulate evidence in favor of upgrading to the stragglers.

    Microsoft was lucky enough to have a perfect product improvement for XP: security. It's desireable, it meets criticisms, it encourages upgrades. But it is not in itself an exciting reason to buy.

    Microsoft did not have to compete with future Windows versions when SP 2 was issued. Microsoft owes a debt of thanks to everyone who complained loudly about security.
    Anton Philidor
  • upgrade???????

    fixing what was wrong in the first place is not an upgrade. If the seatbelts in my car release by themselves (or could be programmed by someone else to release in a crash) fixing the problem would not be an upgrade, it would be fixing the problem.

    Linux HAS incorporated more features in the form of platform compatibility, and driver sets that "come with", as well as keeping up with bugs, holes in security and "tightening up" of the basic functions.

    Most older users cannot cope with the learning curve associated with a new os, it's just one more thing on a long list of things to do. Newer users might like having a new level on the video game, and enjoy the distraction from the real business of producing.

    Operating systems are not applications, and it's time that microsoft stopped treating it as one.
    pesky_z
    • 'Linux' is the kernel, everything else is your distro

      When you say 'Linux' it sounds like you are confusing the kernel from the rest of the fluff that gets tossed into a distro with the kernel.

      While you are writing about tightening up an OS, you should be honest and think about the quality of half of the open source software that is tossed into those distros, modules that don't work with each other because of version mismatches (the version of pppd included with Suse is not the same version (recent enough) to be used with the pptp included with SuSE) and major pieces of highly visible junk such as the KOffice suite.

      There is a learning curve because most the software included in Linux distros are not of the same quality as what is included on Mac OS or Windows and if it doesn't work you are usually required to fix it yourself which most people are not in the position to do.

      There is a lot to be fixed in most Linux distros, they are all a work in progress.
      balsover
  • well frequent updates works for Apple Mac OSX and Linux

    Extreme programming says you should do it, and it works for Apple Mac OSX and Linux.
    Note: a Linux distro is NOT just the Linux kernel.
    In a distro you get thousands packages, for example OO2 might replace OO1 which has lots of additional features, so I am VERY SURE that a typical Linux distro today has a massive amount of additional functionality over a Linux distro five years ago.

    Similarily, OSX has added many many new features.
    I am very sure that Microsoft could work on a subscription basis.
    Corporate IT might not want upgrades quite so frequently, (release to production etc), but not everyone works like that.

    I think this article falls down by being in the one size fits all category. One size *DOESNT* fit all.
    hipparchus2001
    • Misc

      Quote: "Extreme programming says you should do [Frequent Updates], and it works for Apple Mac OSX and Linux."

      Extreme programming, rapid prototyping, and so forth do talk about frequent releases but I don't think I'd relate that to the release schedules of Apple's OSX or releases of various Linux distributions.

      Quote: "Note: a Linux distro is NOT just the Linux kernel. In a distro you get thousands packages, for example OO2 might replace OO1 which has lots of additional features, so I am VERY SURE that a typical Linux distro today has a massive amount of additional functionality over a Linux distro five years ago."

      Agreed. The updates come available constantly and it's really kind of up to the SysAdmin how often he wants to apply the updates. Obviously a security related update is going to be desirable.

      I believe MS was doing this too, but I suspect it was undesirable to many Windows SysAdmins, leading to MS making security releases once a month. I'm not a Windows guy, and probably am simplifying or misrepresenting that history in some way.

      I think one significant difference is the notion of payment. Since many open source projects don't depend on cash payment for their releases, they could be more likely to schedule more small releases.

      Quote: "I am very sure that Microsoft could work on a subscription basis."

      That's my perception of what MS's Software Assurance program is. I believe folks pay a reoccuring fee to get updates. I think the challenge here to MS comes in that people who pay for a subscription would like to get updates more frequently than every five years. I think these updates have to be new features. I think many people want to consider bug fixes (including security patches) part of the initial purchase.

      Of course, most software shops don't budget for years of programmers sitting around waiting for bugs to fix so that they can roll that cost into the initial purchase price. This is probably why MS thinks a subscription pricing model is appealing. I don't know about everyone, but I see subscriptions coming without a large initial expense. I mean, I don't pay for magazines as $250 plus $10 per month. I expect subscriptions to essentially be pay as I go. If I pay yearly, then I expect to get a prorated return if I cancel before the year is over.

      Quote: "I think this article falls down by being in the one size fits all category. One size *DOESNT* fit all."

      I suspect you might be right. Many people follow enterprise computing so closely they forget that enterprise computing is dwarfed by the computing of small shops. Enterprise computing usually deals with large volumes and what makes sense for them doesn't always make sense for small shops.

      It's been interesting to watch MS's attempted (in progress) transition from the low-cost provider empowering small shops to a provider attempting to solve enterprise problems. It looks to me like MS constantly struggles between two self-images: the high-quality high-cost provider it believes to be a desirable position, and the low-cost wide-appeal provider where it got it's start.

      In the mean time, the world around it is changing in ways MS didn't expect. A lower-cost alternative has emerged and the customer base has grown in it's sophistication, slowly starting to demand non-vendor centric computing via open standards.

      Then again, I could be wrong. :)
      zztong
  • Wow-aren't you out of the loop!

    Responding to your point- "Well, I am not so sure that Linux is any more feature-rich today than it was when Windows XP shipped either, but I do know that the retail prices of fully supported Linux servers and clients are about the same as those from Microsoft So where are those disgruntled Microsoft customers going to go to get all those new features?"

    Feature rich from 2000 to today- Well you have about 25,000 additions that make the Generic linux kernel suprememly feature rich since 2000 to 2005: hardware, speed, virtualization, soon to have Xen, what are you looking for? Apps? there are a ton more than there were in 2000 and those that were around have matured by tremendous gains.

    Retail prices of those similar to Windows? Where are you shopping?
    Try here --> http://www.novell.com/products/linuxenterpriseserver/howtobuy.html
    For Windows see here --> http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2003/howtobuy/licensing/pricing.mspx

    Advise to all readers- Do your homework don't just beleive crap people put on the web!
    whieber
  • What they need is a decent OS!

    Problem solved
    An_Axe_to_Grind
  • Not what customers need, but what they asked for

    I also totally disagree with all kinds of frequent upgrades. Unfortunately, MS is just responding to what people have demanded. Everywhere you turn, everyone has had something negative to say about how long it has taken MS to get longhorn ready (some called it "longwait"). Indeed, we even saw such stories here on ZDNet.

    How else was MS supposed to respond?

    Personally, I thought the idea of a major upgrade every 5 years was a good one.

    Arthas
    JamesNT
  • Message has been deleted.

    realitycheck101