Is Vista the most succesful marketing ploy ever?

My sister was happily plodding along on Windows XP (the luddite, right?). Until the fateful day her pc died. The replacement came with Vista – she hates it, I refuse to support it, it is just so bloody annoying.

I thought Office 2007 was ultra-frustrating the way they shuffled around the commands to make them harder to find. But Vista is way worse. We spent half an hour messing around just so she could download a program off t’intarwebs. Hello? its 2009! we download stuff off the internet! Eventually one of the bazillion settings in Internet Explorer (she uses Firefox exclusively) that I changed finally fixed it. Sadly there were no ‘That action could be a security threat, if you really want to download xxx then you should change yyy here ‘ handy warning/links.

We eventually got that working, I’m not sure how much of her life she would have wasted if I had not been able to help. Then there was some other problem, at that I had to say sorry, I have other things I need to do.

For a competent computer user Vista is a scourge. Every time I have used it (usually helping someone who has a problem they wouldn’t have in XP) I have come close to launching the pc out of the window.

So to the new era…

Everything I have read about Win 7 compares it to Vista, and often it’s to Vista as it was when it launched 3 years ago.

  • Win 7 has better driver support than Vista (had at release)
  • Win 7 has better security than Vista (had at release)
  • Win 7 has better hardware compatibility than Vista (had at release)
  • etc etc, you get the idea

By punting out a complete lemon 3 years ago MS have given themselves a fairly easy to sell ‘improvement’ story. Have you ever done that – deliberately underperformed at the initial test so you can show better improvement? (Like the folks who go the weight watchers with a pocketful of coins, and their heaviest jumper the first week.)

No one seems to be comparing Win 7 to its main competitor – a mature installation of Windows XP. So mature, any of those new features trumpeted in Win 7 will probably already be solved by some downloaded utility if needed.

Win XP is the biggest competitor by dint of the largest installed base, but Apple is probably the most dangerous competitor. A shift from any Windows to Mac OS is a big loss for anyone who sells primarily Windows software, like MS for example.

Anyway, I foresee Windows 7 getting an easier ride simply because people will be relieved that it is better than Vista. But so is almost any OS from the last 10 years.

The Codematic website still gets traffic from win 3.xx machines. Win 3.11 is a damn sight easier to use than Vista. (win xp:65%, Vista:17%, win 3.xx:1.5% in Sept 09)

Do you think that Win 7 will benefit from Vista being so crap? Do you think the boost to Win 7 sales will be enough to cover the embarrassment of Vista?

Do you think they will continue this alternate lemon/loss leader followed by acceptable product in Windows versions? do you think they will extend it to other areas of the business, or do you think they already did with Office 2007??



17 Responses to “Is Vista the most succesful marketing ploy ever?”

  1. Charles Says:

    XL 2007 was the lemon – my first impressions of XL 2010 are good – the technical preview seems more stable than 2007 RTM.

    (However the ribbon has not gone away)

  2. Bob Phillips Says:

    I would love to hear what is so good about 2010. Performance yes, stability, apparently, functionally, nothing. Sparklines and slicer don’t cut the mustard I am afraid when you still have the crappy CF, poor Namemanager, no decent functions added, etc., etc. And then there is the ribbon … they didn’t even offer a classic fallback.

  3. Adam Vero Says:

    Simon, I know what you mean about some of Vista (and Win7) features being really annoying.
    I used to be able to talk people through basic things even without XP in front of me – now I feel really stupid when trying to get someone to check the IP settings for their network card as I have to guess where they buried the actual devices in the Network and Sharing Center. I don’t want to browse my local network (there isn’t one, since it is not working, hence the need to be looking in here). I don’t want to connect to a new network, just fix my existing one. I don’t want to see a pretty map of my network (which won’t work anyway since most of my devices are not using IPv6.
    Other features have been similarly shuffled and made harder to find for ‘pro’ users.
    I have to say though, I do like UAC. It works for me. I run as non-admin all the time and it prompts me appropriately when needed. I find it only tends to annoy people who are used to running as local admin all the time and hate something getting in the way.
    Offline folders finally works properly too, used to flake out on XP every so often, and was way too intrusive at logoff time. Vista/Win7 version is pretty much invisible to me (and I have several GBs of stuff from many different folders and shares synched here)

    I have to disagree with Bob about Excel 2010, I’m finding lots to like.
    2010 adds a bunch of useful things to Excel – the ability to easily customise the Ribbon through a fairly intuitive GUI rather than totally obscure (for most users) XML hacking is great. The shame is, like Simon mentions in his article, that this comparison only works because this vital functionality was missed out last time round.
    I think sparklines will get good uptake, I know most of what they do can be done in other ways with minimalist charts or third-party add-ons, but the discoverability of having them right there in the Ribbon has to be a bonus for anyone that wants to improve their visualisations (when appropriate, of course)
    I did not really “get” slicers at first, I though they looked like some real dumbing down, and they take up a lot of real estate compared to previous filtering. They do reduce the number of clicks it takes to filter for multiple categories, but this was never a real show stopper for me. The killer functionality of them for me is the ability to link them to multiple pivot tables and filter them all to match, with no VBA. This gives a straightforward way to drive a self-service dashboard (as long as it is mainly pivot table based, or at least has pivots in the background driving data delivered by GetPivotData queries.
    VBA macros recording seems to have improved, but again only when compared to the broken version in 2007 which simply refuses to capture some things at all (like charts).
    I don’t know enough about statistics to comment in detail, but it does osund like they have tried to address some of the historical criticism about Excel stats functions and rewrote many of them to get them to work like the rest of the world expects.

    There’s a bunch of pretty stuff added to PowerPoint, not useful if you subscribe to olf fashioned lists of bullets, but generally helpful for people using mixed media to allow them to do more within the application rather than using external utilities.
    Word does not seem to have changed in many ways, but the new navigation pane is great for peeople writing long documents – combining functionality from the outline view and find/replace in a much more intuitive interface, it’s really powerful. I have yet to have a chance to use the multi-authoring / collaboration features to see how it works, but everything I have read and seen looks really good.
    Outlook conversations I have yet to get used to, and many of the other new features only work with Exchange 2010 (as is often the case with Outlook versions).
    Visio got a Ribbon and changed default themes to some stupid choices – why would I want shadows under my flowchart boxes, for heaven’s sake? Of all the apps it seems to have the fewest improvements (and incidentally has crashed more than the others).

    Overall, I think next year will see huge takeup of these new releases. I’m still not having a launch party though (no, not even for Office).

  4. Simon Says:

    The best thing about 2010 is it still supports XLM – yay!
    I run as non admin all the time too (on Ubuntu) and do not find the permissions intrusive at all. In fact the whole OS almost seems designed to let me get on with what I want – unlike Vista and O2007 which seem designed to stop me doing what I want.

  5. Mike Woodhouse Says:

    The trouble with Vista was (is) that it was (is) a bodge-up. MS bit off more than they could chew with Longhorn and had to regroup and ship something (anything) before the revenue stream dried up. Let’s face it, once they’re shipping they’re not going to commit marketing suicide by telling us it’s a bit pants, are they? Of course, now they’ve done a better job with 7, they’re telling us exactly that because they want us to shell out for the upgrade. And the marketers will now be believing the opposite of what they believed a year ago. That’s marketers for you.

    I’ll be taking all three home PCs up to 7 between ship date and Christmas, if only because my desktop may then re-acquire the ability to use wireless networking, something it lost when Vista SP2 turned up last Friday…

    The big failure of the Ribbon, now that I’ve finally spent some time with it, is that I can’t intuit which stupid tab the function I want is hidden on. If I can’t figure it out after almpst 20 years of immersion in the Microsoft world, what chance does Mr Average have?

    How many lemons have there really been, btw? ME, they say (I must have just had a good copy) and Vista, but Win2K was OK, as was 95 and 3.1 (OK, WfW/3.11 was a bit of a non-event). NT3.1 was a bit feeble, but 3.51 and 4 were well-received at the time, by me at least.

    I’ll get me coat…

  6. Harlan Grove Says:

    I agree with Bob. No significant functions added (though the CLAIMS in the Excel development team blog about fixing functions looks promising – I don’t have the XL14 preview, so I’d be interested to find out whether MOD(2^{41,42},3) returns {2,1} (as it should) or #NUM! like previous versions). I guess they figure straight worksheet functionality is pretty near perfect.

    When will they provide something as obviously useful as


    ?! Probably never. Excel has never been a 3D spreadsheet, just bundled collections of 2D spreadsheets.

  7. Jon Peltier Says:

    2010 (from what little I’ve seen, the MSDN blog and a few hours playing around) is what the 2007 beta2 should have been. Some improved functionality and some bugs fixed. A little more work smoothing the rough edges of the charts and it will be what 2007 RTM should have been. But they didn’t really have the resources (time especially and probably coding manpower) because they were sidetracked with the ribbon integration.

  8. sam Says:

    @Harlan: MOD(2^{41,42},3) returns {2,1} in 2010

    @Simon : Have a look at the last few posts on the Excel team blog… They talk of performance improvements in 2010…

    It says how a particular feature in 2010 X times faster that 2007…backed up with a fancy chart…

    What is fails to show is how much faster is it w.r.t 2003…

    So you mess up a something then fix it and call it as an improvement…wow.

  9. Mike Alexander Says:

    Simon: Are you suggesting that Microsoft purposefully released a crappy OS so people would by the real one three years later?

    I think not. I really think they genuinely botched it – overshot – stepped on their willies – whatever you brits say.

    Windows 7 is SP3 for Windows, just as Office 2010 is SP3 for Office.

  10. Harlan Grove Says:

    @sam – thanks.

  11. Charles Says:

    “Have you ever done that – deliberately underperformed at the initial test so you can show better improvement?”

    All the time, it’s called consulting ;-)

  12. Simon Says:

    Mike you don’t think those marketing wonks that gave us the demographically and sartorially correct, but somehow implausible shitasmia party team might have just said ‘just ship it – we’ll catch them on the rebound’?

    I know its a bit of a stretch, but what is the biggest thing Win 7 has got going for it? I’d say its the lack of a modern credible compatible alternative. The media have poisoned Vista so badly that few would risk the embarrassment of recommending it, and MS haven’t really fixed or defended it have they – they have just promised Win 7 will be a better experience out of the box.

    Sam – at one place I worked one of the guys moffed up the reporting so bad each month he had to stay late to fix it – and then got rewarded! every month, the hero. When he was on holidays the rest of us got the stuff done on time, no bother, no drama – and no reward.

  13. Harlan Grove Says:

    ‘… lack of a modern credible compatible alternative’

    Define ‘modern’. Fashionably recent? Up to date eye candy? Better (cough!) security?

    I’ll play dumb: what software out there can run under Vista or Win 7 but not XP? Well, I suppose MSO 2010 will be, er, engineered not to run under XP.

    While I don’t have it to test, Crossover Office for Linux claims to be able to run MSO 2007 as well as a lot of other commercial Windows software, so would Linux + Crossover Office be an alternative? I suppose that gets back to the definition of ‘credible’.

  14. Stephane Rodriguez Says:

    Just like it tooks several Office releases to get XML as a file format replacement, it took several releases to change the UI and to make it web-friendly. i.e. the Ribbon is just more left-clicks-in-your-face UI, as opposed to the traditional right-click UI. The move to the web is not done yet, since it enables scenarios that current desktop (i.e. web unaware) cannot do.

    Same for Windows.

    I wish Microsoft did much of the work in just one release, for Office and Windows, but I guess this is just business as usual.

  15. Simon Says:

    modern = less than 10 years old, and in MS case still in mainstream support, which XP isn’t
    Crossover looks pretty good, last time I checked though there were a few things I needed that it didn’t do.
    Interesting point about O2010 XP compatibility, making it not work well on XP would be the kiss of death to 2010 I would have thought?

  16. Jim Cone Says:

    Re: “Interesting point about O2010 XP compatibility, making it not work well on XP would be the kiss of death to 2010 I would have thought?”

    Using Windows XP, sp3…
    xl2010 Tech Preview added a white border (in the vbe) to all of my previously created UserForms.
    When I uninstalled xl2010 tp, it was necessary to do a System Restore.

    Kiss of Death?… yes

  17. Bob Phillips Says:

    I am using it on XP SP3, don’t see that (or didn’t, it has stopped working now until I activate, and I can’t), but that is on VM.

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