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Windows XP vs. Vista

Recently at the Microsoft Financial Analyst Day at the Microsoft Redmond Campus in Redmond WA, CEO Steve Ballmer stated that by the end of 2008, Microsoft would have over 1 billion installed users of Windows. Ballmer said that this would mean that there would be more computers using Windows than automobiles in the world.I don’t know if the order has gone out yet for a set of yellow arches to be installed at the Microsoft offices with one of those signs like McDonald’s used to change as the number served went up, but I suspect that a purchase order is in the works.

I’ve have watched Windows from the time it was first released and have used and supported it for many years. Although I’m not usually given to conspiracy theories, I’ve come to believe that I’ve discovered one and I really want to share it.

Earlier this year, Microsoft released the latest version of Windows called Vista and announced that XP would be discontinued. Immediately, the mass-market computer manufacturers dropped XP and began shipping all of their computers pre-installed with Vista. Quickly, the only computers you could find at Dell, Gateway, Walmart, OfficeMax, and OfficeDepot were Vista computers. The chaos began in earnest when early adopters of the new operating system realized that much of their existing software simply would not run under Vista because the new, tighter security shut down older software’s ability to operate.

Microsoft never seems to take into consideration that most businesses are not like giant corporations who replace all of their computers and software every two years. Smaller businesses tend to find stable, dependable software that works all the time and they keep it. I can’t tell you the number of clients who still have DOS applications in operation. This usually not a problem unless the company that wrote the software goes out of business or quits supporting their older products. Under Vista many older software packages had minor conflicts with Vista, but they were really major problems because the original programmers weren’t around to fix the problems.

This resulted in a large increase in our computer sales, because our vendors could and would still ship computers with Windows XP. Customers using older versions of Windows, raced to purchase computers with XP because they didn’t want to risk not being able to access to software they’ve been using for years. Starting over is not to be taken lightly!

In the early days of Vista’s release, so many people returned their Vista computers or began demanding XP upfront that all of those major retail manufacturers quietly added Windows XP models back to their product offerings. Microsoft also announced at their analysts meeting that last year Microsoft sold $14.97 Billion in the Windows product line and Vista accounted for only 12% of those sales. While I’m sure that Windows server products make up a large portion of the remaining sales, I believe there are a surprising number of XP sales in that number as well.

Steve Jobs at Apple would have you believe that the argument is still Apple vs. PC, but I have come to believe that Microsoft has reframed the argument to XP vs. Vista. Which brings me back to my conspiracy theory.

Do you remember a little company named ‘Coca-Cola?’ You know the one who dominated the soft-drink market for many, many years? You know the one that who decided they wanted to update their flagship product and created ‘New Coke?’ Remember the lines at the stores that were stampeded by folks trying to buy Old Coke. Remember the people who quit drinking Coke products in such large numbers that the management of the company came out on TV and said, “No! No! Wait! We were just kidding! Here’s Coke Classic! Drink all you want we’ll make more!” And remember how Coca-Cola sales took off like a rocket after that?

My conspiracy theory is that Microsoft took such a beating for security problems for so long that their programmers were finally fed up with it and decided that one way to solve the problem would be to release a Windows operating system that was so restrictive that no one could use it. Then, when everyone figured out what having a truly secure system meant, they would demand to have the old, user-friendly, classic XP back and it would be a win, win for Microsoft. And it is beginning to look like the gambit paid off.

As in the Coke case, you really only want customers debating the pros and cons of two products if you sell BOTH of the products. New Coke vs. Classic Coke was a much better argument than Coke vs. Pepsi, just as XP vs. Vista is better than Microsoft vs. Apple, or Windows vs. Linux.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it was just a coincidence that worked to Microsoft’s advantage.

And, maybe aliens DID land at Roswell and they lived as “illegal” aliens in the U.S. and gave birth to a baby boy named Bill who just happens to own the largest company in the world.

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