And it does appear that the Vista injuries sustained by Microsoft have been considerable and plans to roll-out Windows Seven may staunch the hemorrhaging but it probably will not recover lost ground in the marketplace.
This is particularly true for netbooks and mobile devices. This burgeoning market segment is extremely competitive and demanding. Although the sector is relatively new a lot of the software and operating systems are mature and the conglomerates looking for solutions are tech-savvy and not always susceptible to BS. Microsoft is in danger of losing their grip on this market segment because of high prices, poor performance and loss of credibility
In the previous month, your humble blogger has been reading the online edition of the Wall Street Journal, which since they have been acquired by Rupert Murdoch seem to have been running quite a few "geeky" articles, and working their inside sources.
For example on April 20th, there was an article in the Wall Street Journal titled Microsoft Gambles on Windows 7 'Starter'. This outlined the plan to release a low-budget hobbled version of the Windows Seven for netbooks. With good reason, the journalists who wrote the story (Nick Wingfield and Don Clark) were somewhat sceptical of the initiative. They mention the economic hard-times and the lack of enthusiasm amongst consumers to part with dollars. Especially in light of the low price and excellent performance of Linux based alternatives. You can find the article by Googling for WSJ Windows Starter. Of particular interest was this this rather remarkable short sentence (unattributed):
Microsoft, however, counters that netbooks running Linux have a big disadvantage: They don't run many popular PC applications such as iTunes and Office.
Yes, it is true! There are no Linux versions of MS Office or iTunes (an Apple product!?). <sarcasm>Life sure is tough for us humble Linux users! We have to make do with Open Office and Amarok! </sarcasm> But somehow we manage.
Note: Rumours have recently surfaced that Office 2010 will in fact run on Linux. If so, your humble blogger will be quite astonished!
Later the Wall Street Journal reported that Windows Seven would include virtualisation technology which would enable it to run XP programs. The story of "XP mode" had already broken however the Wall Street Journal picked it up quite quickly. And your blogger can't help making the humble observation that such technologies are available for Linux and Mac. It would seem an unusual choice to use Windows to virtualise Windows when Linux and Mac already do it better! Your own humble blogger still hasn't found a replacement for MYOB, and hence runs it in "XP Mode" in Linux (using emulation rather then virtualisation).
And then only a few days ago, the Wall Street Journal published an article by Nick Wingfield and Amol Sharma which claimed that Microsoft are working with Verizon to create a new top secret "Pink" device, which some speculate is intended to carve out a substantial market share in the young female demographic. The phone will run windows mobile (not Windows Seven?) and it is planned to roll out a "Mobile Marketplace" which it is hoped will work in manner similar to Apple's App Store. The journalists do not name their sources. However the Wall Street Journal seems to have reliable sources for many of their stories. You can find the article by Googling for "Verizon Pink WSJ". The rumour seems to have spread like fire.
And without resorting to sarcasm tags, your blogger can't help commenting that other operating systems could also have "pink" editions ... except they would more likely be referred to as "skins", "wallpaper" and/or packaging.
Of course the revelation of the Windows Seven Starter kit and the Verizon Pink rumour has practically set the entire blogosphere aflame. There is a plethora of opinions for and against these new plans --- Naturally, your blogger finds it difficult to refrain from adding his own humble opinion to the bonfire.
Although there is a lot written about the marketing campaigns and the look and feel of the GUI, one of the things not mentioned enough, in your humble blogger's opinion is the performance of Microsoft's operating system. There are numerous puff pieces and benchmark tests constructed by various microserfs which essentially measure the speed of the CPU and/or the speed of the graphics rendering, but anyone who has dealt with many different computer operating systems knows that Microsoft Windows has appalling performance when it comes to mundane computing work, stuff like copying, moving and/or deleting files, zipping files, reading in records from a plain text file, rearranging them and writing them to an output file etc, etc.
In your blogger's humble opinion, Unix is orders of magnitude ahead of Windows when it comes to performing such routine everyday tasks. This inconvenient truth about Microsoftware has been overlooked as manufacturers have brought out bigger, bolder and much more muscular hardware. Microsoft has concentrated all their considerable resources on adding graphic effects for eye-candy, gee-whiz frills, vertical integration to lock customers in and competitors out and subtle incompatibilities to entice, persuade and/or (ultimately) compel customers to upgrade.
The grand master plan of ever escalating bloat built on the gravy train of the expanding hardware multiverse came unstuck in the Great Vista Train Wreck of 2007. The awful truth is that performance really does matter on low end devices. In this market, for the time being, it is not possible to simply throw more hardware at the problem of poor performance. The mad scramble to debloat, debug, devolve, deflate and deploy Microsoft Longhorn, since renamed to Vista and now rebadged as "Seven", and to further split it up into a (crippled) starter edition and (probably) numerous other editions and finally to wrap it up in pink for girls, certainly shows there is a lot of activity over at Redmond central.
But is it well-considered structured activity? -- Or a frantic re-arrangement of the deck-chairs? And will it mean that after nine long years, we will have a "working" version of Microsoft Longhorn (because that is really what Seven will be - if it works)?
And although there is a performance gap, the general public is not really aware of it. This is thanks largely to Microsoft's endeavours. Over the years they have steadily dumbed down the user interface, and taken up many application functions in the kernel. Many of their customers don't even know (or care) what a file is or what happens when it is copied, and this ignorance suits the sales staff at Redmond central just fine. The cruel twist of irony is that many consumers go by brands. Most of them react instinctively and emotionally, almost subliminally to the following two logos:
|What They See||What They Think (Free Association)|
|Complex, buggy products that often don't work. problems, mishaps, spam, viruses, malware and criminal activity.|
|Cool, well-designed, hip, young, easy to use products. Software that is a generation ahead of other vendors. iPhones, iPods. Stuff that just works!|
Despite the extraordinary success of the Windows operating system, Microsoft customers are by and large not happy vegemites. When microsoft customers make mistakes they grumble and curse !@#$ing computers - They never #$%^ing work!. When Apple customers make mistakes they might exclaim Oh Dear me! I must have pressed the wrong key - How Silly! The unfairness of these differing responses probably drives the marketing division at Redmond and the dwindling base of Microsoft fans almost to distraction.
And in fact, Microsoft have been doing some research on this very problem. And the results are not promising. It turns out that punters perceive the results delivered by Google to be superior to the results delivered by Microsoft Even when the Microsoft Search Engine delivered Identical Results!
This leads your humble blogger to suggest that the best way to improve the sales and marketing performance of Microsoft phones would be to remove the Microsoft logos, and indeed any trace of the Microsoft brand.
And your humble blogger will concede that this news must be alarming for Microsoft and it is very cruel. But it is also fair. Microsoft's poor reputation has been well earned and is also well-deserved.
It is your blogger's most humble opinion that the failure to roll out a new Operating System (and the poor performance) has contributed considerably to Microsoft's Operating System Blues, because they haven't lived up to their promises. And the sad truth is that had Microsoft spent one per cent of the Longhorn/Vista/Seven budget on a Linux distribution, they would have had a working smart phone and an integrated search engine years ago.
Many other major players are opting for open source delivery systems because they have done the maths. Microsoft's ability to carry on the courageous project of writing an operating system is a tribute to their vast bulk and their cash reserves as much as it is to their persistence. And the big risk with such persistence is that they are putting too many eggs into the Windows basket -- Making it increasingly likely that it will come down to a last ditch defense of their operating system.
Have they got it right this time? We are supposed to believe that they have.
Your humble blogger will wait not eagerly but humbly ... definitely not holding his breath.