Over the past few weeks I've received several hundred emails from Hardware 2.0 readers on the subject of upgrading to Windows 7. The emails have come from a broad cross-section of the PC using market, from home users running a single PC, all the way to decision makers at large corporations. Reading these emails has given me tremendous insight into how people on the ground think about and see Windows 7 (rather than pundits, which, let's face it, live in a different world ...).
What's interesting is that overall, people are very excited about Windows 7. They like what they see. The Windows 7 betas, along with the and Release Candidate, have spread far and wide and have been installed by both a greater number, and a far more diverse range of people than any other OS beta I've come across. Even people who were burned by Vista and went back to XP seem to like what they see.
But the message I'm getting is that there's a big gulf between liking a product, and liking it enough to pay for it. In fact, while about 5% of people said they were ready and willing to upgrade now, and another 10% would do so in a year or so (either through an upgrade, or by buying a new PC), a large number of people are playing the waiting game. The reasons why people are likely to avoid 7 boil down to four basic groups:
The four groups -->
- Where's the beef?
These people have looked at Windows 7 and while many like what they see, they can't see solid reason as to why to upgrade. These people don't see enough new stuff in 7 compared to XP or Vista to warrant an upgrade. Some said they'd wait and see what SP1 will bring, while some said that they might stick with what they have (one person made the comment that Windows 8 would be out before extended support for XP ran out so why bother upgrading now).
- How much?!!?
We're in a recession, and people know it. These folks are price-sensitive and look at the price of upgrading (just the OS, or the PC and associated hardware and software) as being too high a price to pay for the privilege of running a new OS.
The difference between the "Why" and "Where's the beef?" categories is subtle, but it's there. While those in the "Where's the beef?" category would upgrade if they saw a compelling reason to do so, those in this category don't see a reason to upgrade because they are happy with their current hardware and software. These people see the OS as playing an ever-decreasing role in their day-to-day activities. They look at the installed apps (or web apps) as being far more important than the OS itself.
- Why risk it?
These users would like to upgrade to 7 but are worried by the consequences. Even average users are getting to the point where they are canny enough to realize that even a free OS upgrade (say with a new PC) might mean having to spend money on new hardware and software. Some said that only being able to buy a Windows 7 PC might put them off spending money, while others said that they'd try to switch back to their current OS if they ran into problems rather than spend more money.
I'm finding that overall home users are less cautious than business users when it comes to upgrading. However, enterprise users seem to be realistic and realize that they will, one day, need to upgrade. Plans seem vague and as usual there's talk of waiting until SP1. Those running Vista as opposed to XP have more breathing space when it comes to upgrading because Vista has a greater support lifespan.
The problem with Windows 7 is not the OS itself. Windows 7 is a great OS. It should be easy to push such a good OS, but Microsoft is facing several challenges:
- Poor communication from Microsoft as to key Windows 7 features.
- Lack of a killer feature to encourage migration from earlier versions.
- Users still remember the Vista debacle.
- Price ... we're in a recession after all!
- Upgrade fears ... XP Mode goes some way to address that, but users would benefit more from an XP license that they could run via dual boot. Also, XP Mode is only available to Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise editions, so a lot of users are left out in the cold.
Microsoft needs to come clean. Either Windows 7 is a minor upgrade (Vista, done right), in which case it needs to be prices appropriately, or 7 is a major upgrade, in which case, Microsoft needs to do a better job of communicating the benefits (and savings) associated with switching to 7.
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