20 million Vista licenses equals a lot of unhappy customers

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.

TOPICS: Windows

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.

[poll id=119]

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?

Topic: Windows

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  • Same as always

    I had hardware problem going from Window NT to Windows 2000. I had to help tons of people with hardware problems going from Windows 98 SE to Windows XP. Nothing is different now. By the time the first service pack in out everything will be fine.


    Why is you have people trying to bring that 10 year old + printer, web cam, sound card or what ever with them. I'm guilty of this too. I've been dragging my Creative card bought in 1999 through all my new PCs and there have 4 since. Why? I mean really a sound card is cheap. Why do I like my old one so much and I do like it. I've seen this same behavior in others where my Uncle had a laser printer from the mid 90s, one he got from work as it was too old for them. He dragged it through all the Windows 9X release then tried to get it to work in XP. It wouldn't of course and that irritated him. Is this just human nature. If it's works why not use it? Then when it doesn't work with an OS because of bit of software it causes us grief. I think so.
    • Ditto

      My first computer was purchased with Win95 installed but with a free upgrade to Win98. It took about nine months after I received the Win98 CD before I managed to make the permanent switch.

      Back then it was mostly the hardware vendors getting their drivers in place. With Vista it's not only that, but also getting the software vendors to fix their programs to run in non-admin mode. I can't say this is MS's fault since the only rule they changed is making the default user a non-admin (and I do commend them for making the honest attempt to become a more secure platform), but still it becomes their problem.
      Michael Kelly
      • One other thing I should mention

        Drivers generally are free, software generally isn't. (Note that when I mention "free" throughout this post I mean "free as in beer".)

        If the only obstacle someone runs into is having to update their free drivers and free software and patch their non-free software then it should be no different than most Windows OS upgrades. Problems will arise, people will get miffed, but in then end it'll all work out. But if people get forced to buy new user software (I say user software to distinguish it from utilities like AV which are usually OS specific), then they will truly be up in arms.

        It seems like Vista does support most (if not all) MS software released within the last four years (with patches in some cases, but that's okay), so I give MS credit for trying to be customer friendly in that regard. But MS has no control over third parties, and if they decide to charge for Vista-capable software there will be more angry customers. Again, this is something in which MS holds no blame, but they will get caught in the crossfire and it will affect their overall initial success.
        Michael Kelly
    • Is buying new peripherals a moral obligation?

      Or does it just make life easier for lazy OS developers?
      John L. Ries
      • My Guess is profits

        Creative doesn't make money off me if I keep using the single sound card I bought back in 1999. If a new OS means and new sound card then they make more money.

        It works good for both the OS developer and the hardware guys. New hardware encourages OS sales and a new OS encourages hardware sales.
    • Exactly ...

      ... people who have no qualms at all going out and buying a shrink-wrapped OS upgrade and then refuse to upgrade their mission-critical applications are just plain foolish. Vista doesn't need Office 2007 instead of Office 2003 but expecting Office 97 or Office XP to work well are naive, at best. The same applies to all other software -- and hardware.
      M Wagner
      • Using Old Software

        mwagner may feel that users should not expect old software to work on a new operating system but what happens to the user who has a lot of data depending on that software. If it is not MS software an upgrade path may not be available.
        For example I have long used Lotus Wordpro Millenium Edition mainly because it lets me work the way I want, is simpler, easy to use and does not require me to do it the MS way. Wordpro still works perfectly with XP Pro but I cannot take the risk of Vista.
        I recently had to help a friend using Office 2003 to sort out problems printing a thesis. I wanted to get to the last page of a file. In Wordpro you select "go to last". In Word that is not an option so I select "go to page" and enter the number of the last page. It goes to the last page of the text but there were 4 pages of end notes so it arrived at the wrong page. I wanted to print the last page of end notes which I editted on the screen. I selected print current page and got the last page of the text printed. I had to get round the MS idiocy by telling my printer the page number of the page to be printed.
        As this shows I have reason to mistrust MS software.
        • Wordperfect had me...

          with "Make it fit." Why has no one copied this feature?
  • Me... I will wait for SP1

    My brother bought a new PC with Vista about 6 weeks ago and all is well. He is simply waiting for Apple to get I-Tunes certified on Vista. I will wait until SP1 comes out before I get a new PC for home use.
    • Or SP2

      So many people are waiting for SP1 that it wouldn't surprise me if MS released SP1 prematurely as well. Maybe they'll even call it SP2 to make it [i]sound[/i] more mature. Remember when Word jumped from v2 to v6, just to sound as mature as WordPerfect v6.
    • In the mean time

      get a copy of Linux, and start learning how to use Linux. Use the time to get over the culture shock of using Linux, and by the time Vista SP1 comes out you probably won't want to bother with it.

      When I moved from Windows to Linux, I experienced a huge culture shock, everything about Linux was so different. Now every time I have to use windows I experience the culture shock in reverse, there are just so many things I can do on Linux that just can't be done on Windows.
      tracy anne
  • I have upgraded two of my four systems at ....

    ... home from XP to vista Ultimate. I am not having any issues with hardware or software to date. My wife's laptop will probably remain XP for the time being due to the lack of Microsoft Mail support for Hotmail. She uses Hotmail in addition to the mail provided by our carrier and does not like the Web interface.
    • P.S.

      The 4th system is Suse Linux 10.2
    • You're an OEM guy, right?

      Do you tend to use the most common types of hardware that OEMs use (and thus more emphasis is placed on getting new drivers out) or do you tend to soup up your computers with more powerful but less common hardware? And are there certain hardware companies you know to avoid because of a history of driver difficulties?
      Michael Kelly
      • I am an engineer for a PC OEM but I built ....

        ... the desktops from a combination of OEM parts and retail upgrades. Other then Creative Labs abysmal support for 64 bit most of the hardware contained inside the computer itself is well supported. There are always exceptions but by in large most of the problems are peripherals outside the actual PC. Legacy printers, scanners, cameras, etc... Each company decides how much support they are going to provide on products they are no longer selling. We have had issues with just about every hardware manufacturer over a driver at some point. I would not single any one out as problematic.

        We as a company try to test every possible combination of hardware we ship along with common products we do not. That is a huge task due to the variety of hardware out there. I for one was very impressed with the In-the-box support for hardware in Vista. Just about everything inside the PC is covered, (except for Creative Labs) by an in-box driver or Windows Update. That is no small accomplishment in and of itself.
        • The Return of Functionality

          Users want functionality returned to them. They are no longer interested in
          excuses as to why things don't work. OEMs are being outflanked by companies
          that are providing dependable solutions.

          Microsoft, through broad licensing, is directly responsible for a morass of legacy
          support. It conflicts with a need to move ahead. Broad choice of brand is by no
          means, worth more than dependability. For all the work OEMs have to do, they
          offload a huge amount of work to the user. This is Adrian's point. He is in the
          position to know. You can't negate the non-technical users dilemma by bragging
          about how your system is free of problems. This is exactly what people are tired
          of. If Vista wasn't ready, it should have been given another 5 years and 6 billion.

          OEM's have been shafted to the greatest extent by Microsoft. They have removed
          the ability to differentiate their products in anything but superficial ways. They
          have atrophied, technically and creatively. They compete now as empty technical
          shells and carnival barkers trying to flag people down with cash back coupons,
          and financing rackets. As margins get lower, the burden of support gets higher.
          PC retailers start to close, Dell starts to issue pink slips. Congratulations, you got
          exactly what you asked for.

          It's clear why you respond with such vitriol to the Apple issues. You've been
          protecting your job.
          Harry Bardal
          • You need to quit smoking whatever it is your ....

            ... smoking because your vision of what is going on doesn't match reality. Microsoft has enabled a huge ECO system of products that allow product companies to innovate in ways that Apple only dreams about. Apple on the other hand is a closed model that reserves all product innovation for themselves. They release products after someone on the PC side has done all the heavy lifting. A prime example is AppleTV. A stripped down Media center box that allows little in the way of creativity and who's sole function is to enrich Apple. The xbox 360 performs every function the AppleTV does and then some in higher resolution and better color.
          • I think the Apple ecosystem...

            is a lot bigger than you think. Apple makes this thing called the iPod....
        • Your comments about peripherals

          are why I am so picky about getting standard technologies for them. For instance I like HP Laserjets because I know they will work with generic PCL and PS drivers. Maybe not as perfectly as with the customized driver, but 90% functionality is better than 0% functionality. Also I try to get cameras that can be recognized as a plain old flash drive (or at least have a removable card), because with Windows XP and Vista's (and OS X's and Linux's for that matter) autostart capabilities you don't need all that extra bundled software you always get with a camera, and flash drive drivers are pretty much standard fare.
          Michael Kelly
          • A good and safe practice to be sure!

            I agree that your approach is a sound one. You have definitely mitigated the risk of adopting a new OS. I do much the same with one difference. On the camera side, I use a card reader built into the PC. It has become the defacto standard replacing the floppy. I remove the card from the camera and pop it into the reader. I also have an Epson Photo printer with a built in card reader and editing capability for those times I just want a quick snapshot print.