For anyone still burning a torch for Windows Vista, its time is rapidly approaching. Buy now or forever hold your peace.
I can't say I'm surprised at how any of this has turned out. After all, Vista's launch was, to be charitable, rocky. When it first arrived just before Christmas 2006, it was late, bloated and, for some, expensive. It may have looked pretty on the outside, but critics quickly pounced on it for driver incompatibility, sluggish performance on mainstream -- and sometimes even high-end -- hardware and enough bugs to fill a family-sized tent on a weekend camping expedition. Microsoft didn't help matters with its ill-fated "Vista Capable" designation -- a public relations debacle that convinced buyers who were too lazy to read the fine print that Vista would run just as well on hardware barely suited for XP.
It's always too late to change a first impression
Since first impressions are often the only things that matter in today's attention-deficit world, Vista got stuck with a reputation it's never quite been able to shake. Which is somewhat unfortunate given how nicely Vista has padded Microsoft's bottom line since then. It's sold hundreds of millions of copies and it runs on the vast majority of laptops on display at the average big box electronics retailer. Service Packs and updates have fixed most of the major bugs and security gaps and more devices than ever are Vista-friendly now that hardware manufacturers have gotten into the driver game. Vista hasn't been the failure its detractors long said it was.
But memories are funny things, and despite its market performance over the past two-and-a-half years, no one seems willing to forgive Vista for being inadequately baked and improperly messaged when it first arrived. So Microsoft, recognizing that the era of the operating system is past middle age, is killing Vista. There's been no press release, of course, no official announcement that it's ending production -- because it's still churning out retail boxes and pre-loaded builds for OEMs just as it always has. But last week's announcement of the Windows 7 Upgrade Option Program signals the likely death knell for Vista.
Free, cheap, and desperate
The Windows 7 Upgrade Option Program is a promotion under which customers who buy a PC equipped with Vista Premium, Business, or Ultimate between now and October will be eligible for a free upgrade when Windows 7 ships. It's designed to prevent the usual drop in demand for a current OS that precedes the launch of the next generation -- a critical move in the middle of a recession, when no one's buying anyway. To further stoke interest among folks not interested in picking up new hardware anytime soon, Microsoft is pricing pre-orders for Windows 7 Home Premium at $49 and Professional at $99 -- as close to fire sale pricing as we've ever seen on a Windows product.
What does all of this posturing and price manipulation mean? Simple: The writing is on the wall, and Microsoft will do anything it can to protect its Windows franchise, even if it means killing off one of its own. Vista's the new sacrificial lamb. Given how well pre-release versions of Windows 7 have been received, it's in the company's best interest to finish off Vista as quickly as it can and shift everyone's attention to Windows 7.
he company needs to move fast, because the age of selling a full-featured OS that fetches a triple-digit price is drawing to a close. We run applications, not operating systems, and Apple's $29 upgrade for Snow Leopard signals just how commoditized the OS has become, and how little the average cash-strapped consumer or business owner is willing to pay for it. While you still need an OS to run the hardware that allows you to get online and run the applications you need, the slow evolution of increasingly network-centric computing points toward a future where what's powering our hardware is less important than it is today.
Tomorrow's operating system won't be the headline-grabbing, Mick Jagger-attracting retail superstar that Windows once was. As long as it connects all the underlying pieces together (and stays out of our way while doing it) that will be enough. A leaner, meaner, cheaper Windows 7 bridges Microsoft toward this somewhat uncertain future. Likewise, big and brash Vista no longer has a place in the line-up, hence Microsoft's all-hands effort to make us forget it ever existed.
But I like Vista
As the transition from Vista to Windows 7 gathers steam, countless folks running Vista find themselves wondering whether Microsoft's accelerated transition to Win7 means they're about to be orphaned. Not especially. Like all Microsoft operating systems, Vista will receive the same tiers of extended support that have traditionally applied to all versions of Windows.
Microsoft is only shifting its marketing focus: Support timelines aren't being changed, and current users have nothing to fear beyond having less to talk about at their next party.
Protect revenue at all costs
In the end, what matters to Microsoft, as with any company, is moving product and maintaining revenue. Whether it's called XP, Vista, Win7, or even Bob is almost immaterial. If it sells, it stays. If it doesn't, it's gone. Microsoft has always managed the Windows sub-brands in a chaotic, ever-evolving manner, grazing over naming conventions as casually as most of us would cruise the buffet table at a distant cousin's wedding. The company's eclectic naming choices are coming full circle with Windows 7, returning to the simple numbering scheme that started it all.
Call it anything you want, as long as you call it Windows. That'll be good enough for Microsoft as it figures out how to make money in a post-Windows, post-Office landscape. With Vista out of the way, the company at least stands a fighting chance of convincing jaded consumers and enterprises alike that the OS is still relevant. Windows 7 is indeed a leaner and better product than Vista. The question on everyone's mind is whether that's enough to sustain the franchise.
I'm posting 2 articles here, that way I don't spam the front page
A year after Windows XP's death, users keep it alive
A year ago today, Microsoft pulled the plug on Windows XP, no longer selling new copies in most venues. The June 30 kill date for XP followed a six-month outcry from users about Windows Vista, with demands that Microsoft keep XP available alongside Vista for the many users who were frustrated by ease-of-use, compatibility, and retraining issues.
In response to the public outpouring of support for XP -- more than 200,000 people signed InfoWorld's "Save XP" petition, for example -- Microsoft did delay XP's formal death from the original Feb. 1, 2008, date to June 30, 2008.
And Microsoft let XP remain available in a variety of specialty channels. For example, Microsoft let companies that build "white box PCs" for customers sell new XP licenses until February 2009. It allows PC makers "downgrade" new systems to XP, so Dell and Hewlett-Packard continue even today to offer XP on a selection of models. (But such OEM downgrades will end on July 31, 2009.) Enterprises with corporatewide licenses and any user with a full or upgrade license has "downgrade" rights on their PCs to install XP Pro over Vista Business. And it has kept XP available for netbooks, though largely because most cannot run Vista. Plus, stores such as Amazon.com continue to sell XP, using inventory acquired before Microsoft's June 30, 2008, general kill date for the OS. (Microsoft's technical support for XP will continue to April 2014 in some cases.)
Gartner analyst Michael Silver attributes XP's persistence, and Microsoft's compromises over killing it outright, to that public outcry.
But now that Windows 7 is less than four months away, is it time for XP users to move to a Windows 7 future and finally let XP go?
The resistance to Vista was historic, as the numbers show
Microsoft officials periodically tell the public that Vista is the most successful version of Windows ever sold, but the numbers belie those claims. Officially, Microsoft has no comment on the rate of Vista adoption, and a spokeswoman said Microsoft doesn't stand behind the claims of its employees.
Gartner's Silver notes that when Microsoft does talk Vista numbers, it talks about shipped licenses. But anyone who "downgrades" to XP was still shipped a Vista license, which distorts the numbers -- significantly.
An analysis of thousands of PCs worldwide, though concentrated in North America, shows that more than half of business PCs have downgraded to XP, as have about 12 percent of consumer PCs (which have very few options to "downgrade" as compared to business PCs).
The data is based on the XPnet community of PCs, which counts 17,000 systems that contribute data on their configurations and performance attributes. (You can add your PC to the mix -- and get free, Web-based performance monitoring tool for your PC -- by joining the InfoWorld Windows Sentinel program.) InfoWorld contributing editor and Enterprise Desktop blogger Randall C. Kennedy runs XPnet and compiled the data for InfoWorld. The table below and chart above show the percentage of manufacturers' systems that shipped with Vista but are actually running XP. The Dell and Lenovo systems are primarily used in business and enterprise settings, while the other manufacturers' systems are concentrated in home settings.
Note that the base of XPnet-reporting systems rose from 3,000 to 17,000 over the 10 months Kennedy tracked the data, but the patterns of XP usage held steady despite the growth in systems.
Percentage of Vista-equipped PCs running XP instead
Vendor Aug. '08 Sept. '08 Oct. '08 Nov. '08 Dec. '08 Jan. '09 Feb. '09 March '09 April '09 May '09
Acer 15% 14% 15% 17% 16% 15% 13% 13% 14% 15%
Dell 43% 48% 46% 44% 42% 40% 40% 39% 38% 38%
HP 13% 16% 14% 12% 10% 9% 8% 8% 11% 11%
Lenovo 50% 54% 52% 53% 54% 53% 51% 53% 52% 51%
Toshiba 6% 11% 11% 12% 12% 13% 15% 14% 14% 15%
Gartner's research backs up Kennedy's XPnet findings, showing a significantly lower adoption rate in enterprises of Vista compared to that of Windows 2000 and XP at the same points in their lifecycles. In the 18- to 24-month period after Windows 2000's release, 12 percent of enterprise PCs ran Windows 2000. For XP at that period, 14 percent of enterprise PCs ran Windows XP. But at the same point in Windows Vista's lifecycle, only 6 percent of enterprise PCs are running it. Gartner's Silver expects Windows 7 to follow the strong adoption pattern of Windows 2000 and XP. "Eighty percent of our clients are telling us they've decided to skip Vista," he notes.
Is it time to forgive Microsoft and embrace Windows 7?
By all reports, Windows 7 fixes many of Vista's sins and adds compelling new capabilities to the mix. InfoWorld's tests show that Windows 7 is fundamentally no faster than Vista; they also show that as applications get more multicore-aware, Windows 7 has more headroom for performance growth than XP does.
"Windows 7 has longer legs than Windows Vista or XP, especially on multicore," Kennedy notes. "This, combined with improvements in background task scheduling and some timely kernel tweaks, provides for an improved users experience -- even on lower-end PC hardware, like netbooks. However, whether or not it'll be enough to help Windows 7 overcome Vista's stigma remains to be seen."
Although Gartner's Silver says Windows 7 is a worthwhile upgrade, he recommends that enterprises wait 12 to 18 months before migrating to Windows 7, so IT can test the OS on their current and planned PCs, verify software compatibility, and understand the implications of software vendors' Windows 7 plans. For example, Silver has seen some software vendors consider using the Windows 7 launch to raise prices via Windows 7-certified upgrades. He also warns IT to inventory its Web applications designed for Internet Explorer 6, which are likely to not work properly under the Vista-oriented IE7 or Windows 7-oriented IE8.
IT must also work through Microsoft's array of software licenses, while also navigating moves the company seems to be making to steer customers to pricier licensing options.
For example, two weeks ago, Microsoft had planned to limit the ability to downgrade to XP new PCs bought before April 2010, which could force enterprises to upgrade to Windows 7 before they are ready. The day InfoWorld reported this plan, Microsoft changed it so that downgrades were allowed on new PCs bought through April 2011.
Last week, Microsoft announced new PCs bought since June 26, 2009, could get a free upgrade to Windows 7 when it shipped -- but it limited businesses to 25 free upgrades. Businesses that pay extra for Microsoft's Software Assurance plan are free to upgrade the OS at any time, as a benefit of what is essentially a subscription plan.
Source: BetaNews | IDG News
Homepage: Windows XP | Windows 7