Microsoft does listen to (some of) its users

Two weeks ago, Infoworld magazine launched a “Save Windows XP!” campaign. Within 5 days, over 164,000 people signed it, demanding that Microsoft do not end OEM and shrinkwrapped sales of Windows XP on 30 June 2008 as announced, but keep it on the market indefinitely. Microsoft did not seem impressed, as the following quote in PC World shows:

The spokeswoman said Microsoft is aware that some customers are pushing for an extension to the deadline — more than 160,000 people have signed a “Save XP” petition launched by Infoworld magazine, for example. But the company has also done its own research among partners and customers, and feels that “the dates are right,” she said, speaking on behalf of Microsoft.

“We feel we’ve made the right accommodations for customers in certain segments who may need more time to transition to Windows Vista,” she said. “But as [Microsoft CEO] Steve [Ballmer] noted, we maintain a constant stance of listening to our customers and our partners. That’s what is guiding our plan, and will continue to guide us going forward.”

I don’t know who Microsoft listens to, but personally I don’t know a single person who prefers Vista over XP. Some of the comments I hear are unprintable. Yesterday, a friend of mine allowed Windows Update to install some updates to his copy of Vista and since then he’s been unable to access the network. Many coroporates still maintain a blanket ban on it and stick with XP.

On the other hand, quite a number of Mac and Ubuntu fans are simply thrilled how much Vista has contributed to driving up interest in their platforms of choice.

Still, I suppose amongst hundreds of millions of Internet users there must be some who are genuine fans of Vista, despite its well documented shortcomings. When Microsoft claims that its death sentence for XP was based on user input, it may not exactly be lying: I suppose most Microsoft shareholder are Microsoft software users too.

Forcing people to buy a more expensive operating system may boost Microsoft’s revenue in the short term. In that sense, it may be in the interest of those users who also happen to be its shareholders. In the long term however it never pays to ignore your customers’ needs. About twenty years ago, IBM tried to force the PC market to switch to its proprietary Micro Channel Architecture (with IBM PS/2 range). The result was that IBM lost control of the PC market place to Compaq and other companies who took over. Microsoft is every bit as arrogant now as IBM was back then and it will suffer the consequences.

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