Microsoft trashes its brand -- and Apple's the winner

Microsoft trashes its brand -- and Apple's the winner

Summary: You have to wonder if Microsoft really knows what it’s doing. There’s a lot of hoo-hah around the Web about Windows 7, and how it’s going to fix Vista’s problems.

TOPICS: Networking

You have to wonder if Microsoft really knows what it’s doing. There’s a lot of hoo-hah around the Web about Windows 7, and how it’s going to fix Vista’s problems. Thing is, the signs are that it won’t -- and that Apple will be the biggest winner.

That Microsoft understands it has a problem with Vista is obvious: the company took -- what? -- six years to drag Vista onto dealers’ shelves after the launch of Windows XP, following which Microsoft seemed to just squat on its haunches and watch the money roll in. In comparison, Windows 7, slated to launch later this year, follows hard on Vista’s heels, just over two years later.

Windows Vista’s done a lot of damage to Microsoft’s reputation and brand. The last sheer dog was Windows ME, which answered a question no-one asked (a bit like a Porsche Cayenne - only prettier) but proved to have all sorts of technical problems associated with it (not at all like a Porsche Cayenne, apparently).

But when ME was launched, messing with PCs was still by and large a minority sport.

No longer. Everyone and his or her dog has at least one PC. My sister-in-law, who knows close to nothing about computers, has two in her family -- and guess who gets the tech support questions -- but let’s just leave that one there. The point is that the brand is now ubiquitous, and Microsoft messes with it at its peril.

So the damage to Microsoft is proportionately bigger when it messes up as it has done with Vista -- it’s so bad even people who know nothing about Vista notice. They notice that some of their old software doesn’t run properly any more. They notice too that they keep getting asked stupid questions to which they don’t know and couldn’t possibly be expected to know the answer. So of course they click OK -- in which case, users quite reasonably say, why does the computer bother them at all?

Is Windows 7 going to fix these issues? We’re told so and I hope to be able to report on a copy on the release candidate in the not too distant future.

Just as important from Microsoft’s point of view is the enterprise market. A recent survey of over 1,100 IT managers and commissioned by KACE, a systems management company, found that “84 percent of IT staff polled do not have plans to upgrade existing Windows desktop and laptop systems to Windows 7 in the next year”.

Why aren’t IT managers following the Microsoft roadmap -- assuming such a thing exists (Redmond used to flaunt one but hasn’t done so for years)? They cited software compatibility, cost of implementation, and the current economic environment as their main concerns.

The story told to me by the company’s Wynne White is that enterprises are sticking with XP for the time being. Some 89 per cent of the 500,000-plus KACE appliance customers use it, while just 1.89 per cent use Vista. For sure, deployments of new enterprise desktops are always slow -- it’s the nature of the beast -- but White reckoned that he could see at least five years’ life in XP yet.

And while they’re not going to Vista, they’re also being much more cautious with Win7. “People’s perception is positive but they’re being much more cautious in their approach,” he said.

“Eighty-four per cent are not going to adopt Windows 7 in the next 12 months, but more telling is that 72 per cent said they were more concerned about upgrading to Windows 7 than they were about staying with XP,” said White.

What all this suggests is that Windows has run out of steam. People no longer have any real reason to upgrade -- if that’s the right word. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that, for all intents and purposes, Windows XP is good enough: it’s easy to use, robust, stable, and reasonably secure (could do better, of course). Neither of its two successors offer all of that -- and they’re just as expensive.

Linux looks to be a big desktop OS winner -- at least in the enterprise. White reckoned that, in the 2007 version of this annual survey, 42 per cent said they’d switch to Linux, but two years later in 2009, half said they’d switch. And when asked if they either had switched or were in the process of switching, nine per cent said yes in 2007, 11 per cent in 2008 and 14 per cent this year.

But Linux isn’t the big beast Microsoft fears: it’s Apple. Between a half and a third of those IT managers said they were contemplating going Mac for their next tranche of desktops.

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Microsoft seems to be in the process of trashing its brand -- and Apple looks to be the biggest picker-up of the pieces.

It's just a major shame that Apple's business model and contempt for its users is even less appetising than Microsoft's...

Topic: Networking

Manek Dubash

About Manek Dubash

Editor, journalist, analyst, presenter and blogger.

As well as blogging and writing news & features here on ZDNet, I work as a cloud analyst with STL Partners, and write for a number of other news and feature sites.

I also provide research and analysis services, video and audio production, white papers, event photography, voiceovers, event moderation, you name it...

Back story
An IT journalist for 25+ years, I worked for Ziff-Davis UK for almost 10 years on PC Magazine, reaching editor-in-chief. Before that, I worked for a number of other business & technology publications and was published in national and international titles.

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  • Microsoft trashes its brand -- and Apple's the winner

    Excellent point about Vista asking questions that ordinary users could not possibly be expected to even understand, much less know the "appropriate" answer to. One could make a very strong argument that this "indoctrination" requiring them to click "Yes/OK" when they don't know what to do has contributed significantly to the spread of worms, viruses and other malware. The most obvious and probably best known example being "Warning! Virus infection detected on your computer! Click here to download anti-virus software to fix this problem".

    As for those who choose to stay with Windows XP, more power to them - I am one of them, for the situations where I still have to use Windows, and I certainly have to plans to install Win7. But what will happen, of course, is that Microsoft will do everything in their power to force users to upgrade, including cutting off sales, support and even updates to "fix" their apparently never-ending stream of security problems. Microsoft has absolutely no interest in what customers want or need, their only interest is how much money they can get out of the customers pocket, and how quickly.

    With a little luck, I will never have to give another 10 cents to Microsoft for any reason. But considering that many OEMs still charge a "Windows Premium" on every system they sell, my luck may not hold on that, quite yet.

  • Microsoft trashes its brand -- and Apple's the winner

    In a similar boat here: I'll not "upgrade" my main desktop to Vista, although I feel I ought to share the pain a bit, just for the experience, so my new Thinkpad T500 will come with Vista Ultimate, which I'll upgrade to Win7 when it arrives.

    The rest will be either sticking with XP SP3 - or going Ubuntu...
    Manek Dubash
  • Microsoft trashes its brand -- and Apple's the winner

    Excellent points, and very timely. The economy will be a major reason for not upgrading, plus that 7 is vista with a new coat of paint. Personally, I am going the other way. I have already removed windows from one desktop, and it is only a matter of time before the other two go. After dual booting, vista/PCLinuxOS, on my laptop for a year now, I find the only time I boot vista is to get the updates, so it is redundant also. The grandkids still want XP because they use it at school, so I will probably keep one desktop until I can no longer get updates. No way will I hook a windows unit to the internet
    that is not updated, and with all the 3rd party security programs running. It is a pity you are forced to pay for windows when you buy a new computer, almost monopolistic.
  • Microsoft trashes its brand -- and Apple's the winner

    Ah yes - Windows and monopoly. We've seen that discussed at the highest levels in the past, haven't we?
    Manek Dubash