James O'Neill's Blog

July 27, 2008

Where Microsoft went wrong with Vista

Filed under: Windows Vista — jamesone111 @ 1:57 am

As I mentioned in my last post I’ve made my way to Microsoft HQ with a Visit to Canada on the way; this meant flying out through Heathrow Terminal 5.

T5 got off to a bad start, and we made contingency plans for lost luggage, delays etc. The reality: the easiest taxi drop-off I’ve seen at a UK airport, very short queues to check in in, lower security hassles than most airports, and as pleasant a place to wait for my flight as I’ve found; and baggage arrived successfully at the other end. The story is doing the rounds that the initial problems weren’t just teething troubles, but were down to BA not training its staff on what was new… I understand that they showed up for work on the morning the terminal opened and had to work out where they were supposed to park and go on from there…

Now one of the things that has come up in the meetings I have been in is that we’ve done a lot of survey work around Vista. 94% of PCs sold via retail have Vista on them. In our recent financial statements to Wall street we said we’d sold 180 Million licences. Corporate customers are buying Vista licences faster than they are deploying, but the same happened with XP, and the rate of deployment of Vista is about the same as XP was at the same point in its life. But Vista is not getting the good press it deserves.

click for full size image. 2 years ago, at every meeting I went to someone would try it plug their laptop into a projector to show their slides. And it wouldn’t work "Press Function F5" someone would call out "No, this one’s a Dell , F5 is for the HP" another would say. "Oh… try F8" .  People would slip out of the room to get a coffee or make a quick call. By the time it had been sorted out 5 minutes had passed. It’s a very conservative estimate to say I lost 10 minutes a week this way. Over a year that’s a whole working day. 

Then Vista came along and it has the Mobility Center. Press [Window key] [X] and up it Pops. Click connect to display and WHOOSH the presentation is on the screen. That’s a day saved: and knowing what Microsoft consulting Services used to charge for my time, that’s worth more than cost of the upgrade licence, and the deployment cost and so on.

I brought this up in the group meeting this morning when someone said something about "people not being able to use PowerPoint because of Vista".. The betas of Nvidia’s Vista driver 6 months before launch didn’t work when a monitor was plugged in, but 3 Months before launch that problem went away. I must have sat through upwards of 500 PowerPoint presentations since Vista came out, and I’ve never seen a problem related to Vista. If the battery fails in someone’s slide clicker what I hear is "That’s vista for you", if the projector won’t focus "It’s vista". That’s wearing a bit thin. What shocked me was someone at the same table leant over after I’d said all that and asked "What was the key combination for that ?"

Earlier in the session, a senior Microsoft person said she’d really valued the training everyone received on XP, and how she missed that with Vista. Anyone can switch from XP to Vista without re-training. You get security benefits, a better network stack, easier deployment  but it takes a little time to show people what can be done. How you get the best out of search, use tagging and previews in explorer, turn off the sound for one irritating application without turning them all off. The list goes on. We didn’t teach people those things. And not everything about a brand new OS is positive.  Some hardware isn’t up to the task – I will tell the story of my Home PC another time, but the short form is it needed me to spend £40 on RAM and the 5 year old graphics card doesn’t support Glass; it works better and does more than it did under XP. Some things won’t have drivers in the early days. The number of drivers available at launch was a creditable 30,000 but that’s increased by over 150% (77,000 at SP1). Some applications don’t work on a new service pack never mind a new release: not everyone has got to grips with the Application Compatibility Toolkit which has helped to provide an environment where some real horrors can be persuaded to run. And user account control annoys IT Professionals like the seat-belt alarm in my car annoys drivers. I don’t need to be told I’m manoeuvring the car with my belt off. I do want to know if my children undo their belts when we’re driving down the motorway. I hope the safety parallel is obvious.

We didn’t give our own people the skills to talk about these things. And our own gleaming new state of the art product had a "Terminal 5" experience. SP1 for Vista was a milestone which gave people the feeling they could go back and have another look at Vista (in fact almost all of key changes had happened before SP1). I wonder how long it will be before people stop trying to avoid T5.


Update. Fixed several typos. Jet lag. Grrrr.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.


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