XP, Vista and the Long Run for Microsoft
"Who is gonna make it?
We'll find out
In the long run"
-- "The Long Run" by The Eagles, from 1979
(And, yes, you'll be humming that song all day now. You're welcome.)
Let's go ahead and call it a movement, or at least a cause. What started as
petition demanding that Microsoft offer XP indefinitely and not scrap it
with OEMs for Vista in June has become something greater, something that has
leaked out of the trade press and nerd circles and into
the real world.
It's not just about an online petition -- a concept we've always found a bit
silly, but that's an aside -- anymore. It's about users talking to Microsoft
and Microsoft looking away and whistling as if nobody's saying anything at all.
And it's about Redmond hitting a wall with how much it can push people around
with forced upgrades. (Speaking of XP, by the way, Service Pack 3 is apparently
Most partners don't seem too concerned about the fate of Vista itself -- at
least not yet, anyway. There's not all that much money to be made in OS sales
or even hardware refreshes these days; most of the dough is in consulting and
services. VARs, consultants and integrators can build on pretty much any Microsoft
platform and might even prefer working with XP as an OS.
There are greater issues in play for Microsoft, though. We at RCPU have long
maintained that Vista would eventually become most people's default operating
system, that we'd come in time to embrace it the way we now seem to love XP.
But, with Microsoft already dropping hints about Windows 7 arriving as
early as 2009, we're not quite so sure anymore.
Beyond that, and much more importantly, the software world is changing. Let's
not pretend that Windows is about to lose massive market share to Apple or Linux;
that's not going to happen, especially on the enterprise side, where companies
have a lot of money sunk into Redmond's wares. But other operating systems --
especially some Linux flavors -- are much more serious competitors for Microsoft
than they were even five years ago. And on the consumer side, the Mac is rebounding
quite nicely, thank you very much. Then there's the wild card, Google, which
might just make the OS obsolete someday with its SaaS offerings...although that
day still seems very, very far away.
The issue here for Microsoft isn't short-term Vista sales (which, Redmond keeps
telling us, are great -- we'll see how long that lasts); it's long-term customer
and partner relationships. It's not just the signers of the online petition
who are shouting at Microsoft not to scrap XP, it's also enterprises, who have
mostly avoided Vista like a vegan avoiding filet mignon: without a second thought
and, in a few cases, with more than a little disgust.
Microsoft has to listen to its customers and partners in a way it hasn't for
a long time, if ever before. It can't offer XP indefinitely; that would throw
a wrench into Redmond's whole revenue model. But it could extend XP's life until
Vista becomes a little more manageable (with drivers, incumbent corporate applications
and the like) or a little more popular, whichever comes first.
It could even, if Windows 7 is really on schedule for 2010-ish, just bite the
bullet and keep XP alive until users are ready to move to what hopefully will
be a lighter, more user-friendly, more driver-ready OS. In other words, skip
Vista altogether and just make Windows 7 the next forced (but hopefully voluntary)
upgrade. That plan, of course, assumes that Microsoft has learned from its Vista
Then again, Microsoft will probably do pretty much what it has done so far:
almost nothing. Well, nothing much different from its usual course of action,
anyway. The company's making buckets of money, more than ever before, and most
users will probably begrudgingly switch to Vista once they have to, anyway.
Forced upgrades can be nice little revenue boosts for partners and Microsoft
But what consequences will the same, old strong-arm strategy have for Microsoft
(and, in turn, its channel) in a software world that really is changing? Even
if the short- and mid-term are both pretty secure for Windows, what about the
long-term? It seems short-sighted, and, in the long run, dangerous for Microsoft
to pretend that everything's fine with Vista and that everybody loves it, which
is mostly what the company seems to be doing. An acknowledgement that Vista
missed the mark for many users would be a start -- after all, we don't think
it's so much the popularity of XP but rather the problems with Vista that are
keeping the new OS down -- but some extension of XP's life to placate those
who really don't want Vista would be even better.
Eventually, companies and consumers are going to start seriously looking at
other operating systems again. It's a trickle now, but it could someday be a
flood. And, eventually, folks are going to have to ask themselves whether Microsoft
(and its partners, by extension) have earned their trust and faith over the
years or whether they're confident in and maybe even excited about going with
an alternative. Microsoft had better think long and hard right now about what
it wants the answer to be.
What's your take on Microsoft potentially extending XP's life? Would you like
to see it? Do you ever get frustrated with the way Microsoft treats its customers?
Let it all out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by Lee Pender on 04/16/2008 at 1:21 PM