XP and the User’s Loss of Nerve

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Poor old Microsoft. They’ve had to extend the life of XP by offering it as an option to customers buying new hardware for another six months at least. They realise that people aren’t going to buy a Vista machine unless XP—what’s wonderfully called “downgrade media”–comes with it:

“As more customers make the move to Windows Vista, we want to make sure that they are making that transition with confidence and that it is as smooth as possible,” Microsoft said. “Providing downgrade media for a few more months is part of that commitment, as is the Windows Vista Small Business Assurance program, which provides one-on-one, customized support for our small-business customers.”

There’s a deeper issue here: Microsoft is beginning to recognise that no longer is there any appetite for users to upgrade operating systems themselves. Remember those lines around the block for Windows 3.1, 95, 98 and XP? Well, OK, maybe not all of them, but according to Wikipedia the fanfare surrounding the release of Windows 95 would nowadays be reserved for the ending of a major war. Or the launch of an iPhone, I guess.

Now we’re only interested in software upgrades if it’s a hardware upgrade. If then.

To be fair, I suspect this isn’t just the fault of Vista. I think a few other things have changed:

  • we’re less excited by software these days. Hardware we can get excited about, but as the proportion of people using technology has grown, the appetite for tweaking that technology has shrunk. Apple understand this, which is why they merge hardware and software, something Microsoft’s Balmer still doesn’t get.
  • Part of this is that I don’t think we believe our computers will do the things we think they will anymore. We drank the kool aid back then. We really thought the next iteration of an operating system would seriously improve our day. And, for the most part, it didn’t. So we moved on.
  • We’ve learned that our computers are getting too complex, and we trust them less. If it works, we’re happy. We don’t want to tempt fate by changing it. This feeds into security issues: We don’t feel safe online and so if we have any configuration that hasn’t arisen in calls from our bank or weird things popping up on our screen, we don’t want to experiment.

This feeds back to my running theme of recent weeks: The computer is becoming more and more like an appliance. We need it to to work, preferably out of the box. Apple (and the likes of Nokia, up to a point) have shown that to be possible, and so now we increasingly expect it of all our computing devices.

For the record I don’t necessarily think this is a good thing, because a dulled appetite for experimentation and change is never good, but after the ups and downs of the past few years, and the apparent failure of Vista, I can understand it.

In short, we users have lost our nerve.

Windows XP gets another lifeline : News : Software – ZDNet Asia

Photo credit: Bink.nu

06. October 2008 by jeremy
Categories: PR, Productivity, Software, apps | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 comment

One Comment

  1. Nah.

    We forget that XP finalized the transition to a solid operating system for Microsoft. I moved to Windows NT 4.0 from Windows 95 and never looked back.

    Windows 2000 got even better hardware support.

    Windows XP one-upped 2K on hardware support and booted a LOT faster than windows 2000.

    With vista we get:
    search? got that in XP
    better security? gave up on a limited user account because it was annoying
    better firewall? Nope. Still have to run a third party tool
    better virus/spyware utils? Nope. Still have to run a third party tool.

    prettier interface? Yes.
    Minor, somewhat useful UI enhancements? Yes.

    Vista is, at this point, generally fine on fast-enough hardware. But there was never a wow feature that made a compelling upgrade case.

    Meantime, I’ve been experimenting–with Mac OS X Leopard. I bought a Mac Mini, and I should have just taken the plunge with a MacBook or MacBook Pro.