foobar on computers, software and the rest of the world

Vista: Microsoft's biggest failure yet?

, posted: 3-Feb-2009 12:19

Not much love for Vista

The Register comments on a recent report by Forrester (the report itself is not a free download). Apparently, adoption of Vista in the enterprise market has not moved much since last July. It's still just under 10% of corporate PCs that run Vista. The Register article then concludes that Windows 7 will come to the market sooner, rather than later.

In essence, the quick release of Windows 7 is seen as both a necessity for Microsoft as well as an admission of the ultimate failure of Vista. Considering the $6 billion development price tag, and who-knows how much additional money for marketing and sales efforts, could Vista be the biggest failure coming out of Redmond so far?

Surely, most of the Vista developments were re-used for Windows 7. But the marketing dollars are lost, and the investment in Vista did not pay off as quickly as hoped for (greatly delayed ROI). Any substantial pay-off may only materialize after the re-packaged and re-branded Vista finally begins to sell under the Windows 7 name.

Microsoft is a very profitable company with large cash piles. They can easily handle even those kinds of failures that what would entirely devastate other companies. But to a company used to successful product launches, Vista's failure simply cannot feel very good.

The problem with selling proprietary software

All of this just exposes the major problem with proprietary software companies: In order to provide incentives for users to pay large license fees every couple of years the product must change significantly. Thus, old developments are not evolved and continuously improved. Instead, sometimes artificial breaks from the past are orchestrated, something entirely new is presented: "See? All shiny and new! Surely worth a couple hundred dollars to you, no?"

But with those artificial breaks come artificial incompatibilities and entirely unnecessary issues and problems that users have to deal with. Mostly, an entirely unnecessary amount of new and largely immature code enters the product. In essence: If you have something that tends to work reasonably well then you might just focus on gradual improvements. That would be the sensible choice. But of course, that doesn't give a good reason for consumers to spend their money. No bling, no flash. It has to be something new and different.

Contrast this to the development and release model in the GNU/Linux world. Take a popular distro like Ubuntu, for example. Every six months whatever nice improvements have been made in the last half year are packaged up into a new release and made available to the user community. The changes with each release tend to be relatively small and gradual, but over time, you get significant improvements in the overall feature set. Since from release to release the changes tend to be gradual, your software by and large just keeps running, and you don't have to re-learn how to do stuff.

This is a far more reasonable approach to evolving a complex computing platform. But you can only do this if you don't depend on license fees.

Another good reason for the FOSS model of software development. Specifically, it is a very good reason for me, the user to chose a free and opens source operating system, rather than a proprietary system where I know, the overriding and only concern for the vendor is its own bottom line.

Other related posts:
Half of Australians think it's OK to pirate Microsoft software
Windows 7 Starter: The anti-feature edition
How Microsoft wins against GNU/Linux in schools

Comment by lani, on 3-Feb-2009 13:47

yes i agree

i wasted my money whaen i bought this monstrocity

and the mongrels are trying to foster window seven

on to us

i belong to a message borad in the usa

and many have gone back to winxp

or like me ubuntu

ive used linux for some time

i bought this vista

thinking it would be the ultimate

but i payed good money for nothing

have a look at this message board and see the comments

on vista

Comment by anonymous, on 3-Feb-2009 15:34

Not a very compelling reason to switch to GNU/Linux.

While FOSS does have its contributions such as:

- Bridging the digital divide
- Creating jobs around its software
- Allow collaboration among interested developers

People will still want commercial software because they want:

- Software support (The OSS community isn't very polite sometimes)
- Uniformity/standardization (Each Linux distro does things its own way)
- Quality Assurance
- Documentation

The aspects above are still perceived as poor with FOSS. FOSS has been good so far for academics, r&d though.

Comment by Rod Drury, on 3-Feb-2009 16:50

SaaS gets these characteristics as well. So not limited to FOSS. Paying as you go for incremental improvements and ongoing support as you use it just makes sense.

Author's note by foobar, on 3-Feb-2009 18:19

@anonymous: You mention a number of points why people still want commercial software. Let me address those:

- Software support (The OSS community isn't very polite sometimes)

You can get paid support for most of the major GNU/Linux distros. RedHat, Novell or Canonincal will be happy to provide this to you. Just like you have to pay Microsoft if you want support. But sadly the perception is that you can't get support for FOSS, which simply isn't so.

- Uniformity/standardization (Each Linux distro does things its own way)

And each version of Windows does it in its own way. And Solaris does it differently than OS X and differently than Windows. The point is: If you want uniformity chose and stick to one version of the OS. You don't get uniformity just because you chose a commercial OS. That argument is a strawman.

- Quality Assurance

Yyyyeeeeessss... Microsoft has not exactly managed to convince the world of the technical superiority and quality of their products, though, has it? Again, this is a perception problem much more than reality.

- Documentation

Ok, so the state of documentation for many FOSS products could be improved, I definitely grant you that.

Author's note by foobar, on 3-Feb-2009 18:21

@Rod Drury: True. In that respect (incremental upgrades) SaaS tends to do the right thing. Of course, running FOSS software (yourself) rather than using an SaaS offering has other advantages (and disadvantages), which make the two rather difficult to compare, one being software the other a service.

Comment by paradoxsm, on 4-Feb-2009 00:43

Vista is plain awful. A few nice ideas from the low level stuff, a few nifty if resource hungry graphical shows and glassy UI and then just trash in the middle. I'm even rather unimpressed with all the "cut back" versions of XP like Xpmicro and nlite which still seem to be... Bloated.

Hopefully this new "green computing" push might have some other OS's show off their stuff and show people what an utter pig Msoffice is which is what amazingly ties most people to Windows apart from gaming (which is heading toward consoles at a very high rate anyway)

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New Zealand

  • Who I am: Software developer and consultant.
  • What I do: System level programming, Linux/Unix. C, C++, Java, Python, and a long time ago even Assembler.
  • What I like: I'm a big fan of free and open source software. I'm Windows-free, running Ubuntu on my laptop. To a somewhat lesser degree, I also follow the SaaS industry.
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