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XP: The OS That Wouldn't Go Away

There's more bad news for Microsoft regarding Vista, if you can believe that. This week, a company called Devil Mountain Software that tracks such things said that 35 percent of PCs end up with "downgrades" from Vista to XP.

Downgrade, of course, is a relative term in this case. But for Microsoft -- and, to a lesser extent, its partners -- the failure of Vista to catch on with users represents a break in a rock-solid business model that has helped Redmond rocket to the top of the software world in recent decades.

Oh, sure, in the short term, the XP downgrades aren't such a bad thing. Users, after all, generally pay for a Vista license and then pay for XP downgrade rights. So Microsoft sells Vista no matter what and then gets a little kick from the XP downgrade. Great, right? For Microsoft, maybe -- for now.

But in the long term, we might look back on Vista as a turning point in Microsoft's history. After all, this is the first time we can remember that users have rejected in such large numbers a major -- "major" being a key word here, as Windows ME and Windows Bob weren't really in that category -- Windows update.

Maybe that doesn't matter in the long run. After all, users can't go on squeezing the last drops out of XP forever; they'll have to upgrade at some point, even if it's to Windows 7. And although Mac and Linux offerings might be picking up some momentum as a result of Vista's failures, those competitors still can't do much to seriously challenge Microsoft's market share, especially in the enterprise.

No, the real questions here concern how much damage Vista is doing to users' (and partners') confidence in Microsoft. And they're not just about whether folks will migrate to a different OS. Will Vista's problems lead users to look more closely at cloud computing -- a category Microsoft is desperately trying to get into -- which de-emphasizes the OS? Will Microsoft's insistence on forcing Vista on customers (and partners, for that matter) prompt enterprise users to think twice before they make investments in other Microsoft technologies...such as servers, where Linux actually has a bit of a foothold?

Microsoft's model for Vista (read: force users into upgrading by killing the previous OS) isn't new, and it has always worked in the past. But it's not working now. XP won't go away, and that makes the future for Windows in particular and Microsoft in general look a lot cloudier than it has in the past.

We're planning on running your Vista e-mails in tomorrow's RCPU...so contribute now to lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on 08/20/2008 at 1:22 PM


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