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The Vista Death Watch


Microsoft has extended the life of Windows XP because Vista has simply not shown any life in the market. We have to begin to ask ourselves if we are really looking at Windows Me/2007, destined to be a disdained flop. By all estimates the number of Vista installations hovers around the number of Macs in use.
How did this happen? And what’s going to happen next? Does Microsoft have a Plan B? A number of possibilities come to mind, and these things must be considered by the company itself.
So what went wrong with Vista in the first place? Let’s start off with the elephant in the room. The product was overpriced from the outset. Why was it so expensive? What was special about it? All the cool and promised features of the original vision of Longhorn were gutted simply because it was beyond Microsoft’s capability to implement those features.
This failure to deliver what was promised—even after several delays in the product’s release, by the way—did nothing to excite anyone. It made the company look bad. It directly resulted in a no-confidence vote that was manifested in a lackluster reception and low sales. Microsoft should have scrapped the project two years ago and instead patched XP until it could deliver something hot.
To make things worse, there are too many versions. Exactly what is the point of that? Don’t we all just want Vista Ultimate? The other versions seem like a way to maybe save money for some users who cannot afford to get the real thing. You can be certain this version glut results only in complaints about what each variation is missing.
Microsoft’s initial approach to marketing this turkey was obviously going to be to put it on just new machines, which would eventually saturate the market, but the PC manufacturers squawked and demanded the continuation of XP sales. Though there is some chatter about how Linux could use this lull in the Microsoft juggernaut to make some real headway onto the desktop, this is unlikely to happen. But Microsoft, with all its paranoid thinking, might have believed it to be possible. So XP is still with us and will be until deep into next year.
I should mention here that much of this mess, I strongly believe, is due to Microsoft’s recent obsession with Google and online search. Now Microsoft wants to be in the advertising business because Google is in the advertising business. Meanwhile, it can’t do its real job.

So what can Microsoft do to improve things with Vista? Here are three suggestions:
1. It can give up on the stupid variations and lower the price on the one good Vista, Vista Ultimate. I’d say $99 would be a price everyone can live with.
2. Microsoft can scuttle the entire product. Why not? Work on a whole new OS starting today with one team and work on SP3 for XP with another team to keep users on Windows.
3. Roll out Vista 2.0. Figure out some way to add some nifty features, perhaps stolen from the next version of the Mac OS. Bring in some outside designers if you have to. Oh, and lower the price on this one, too.
I remember the old Bill Gates speeches of the mid-1980s when Microsoft, as he told it, “sold code.” Selling code was what he did, and selling code is a terrific business once you are established. It’s even better if you can monopolize a market with your code. It’s easy money compared with most businesses. Halo 3 is code. It sold $175 million worth of code on its first day of release. Once code is fixed in place and burned onto a CD-ROM or DVD, it has a manufacturing cost of a buck or two and sells for anywhere from $30 to $1,000 or more.
But Microsoft sees a new kid on the block, Google. Google is a service combined with an advertising sales engine. It looks profitable, too. But is it as profitable as selling code? Apparently Microsoft thinks it might be. Besides, there is no $2 manufacturing cost.
Until now, Microsoft could sell code better than anyone, but it seems the company would rather sell services: software as a service, ads, search engine results—you name it. This is like the local storefront that opens as a knife-sharpening business and is soon selling junk jewelry, moose heads, toaster repair, and cheap chocolate. In the meantime, the knife-sharpening business goes by the wayside. This is what has happened to Microsoft, and Vista is the result.
I’m certainly not going to be a happy camper if I have to switch to a Mac or Linux system full-time, yet that is exactly where this scatterbrained company seems to be sending me.

Ohh noes. Dvorak is fairly influential, if not controversial.

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