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If Vista’s so great, maybe Microsoft should pay for it

There’s no better way to spend a hot afternoon than in an air-conditioned  gym zoning out in front of ESPN’s afternoon lineup. (Minus Jim Rome, whose appeal remains a mystery.)

Anyway, the various Around the Horn and PTI guys were in fine fettle the other day, yelling about how Goodyear should refund ticket prices for the recent Allstate 400 debacle it sponsored. For those not in NASCAR’s orbit, this race was a joke because cars kept blowing tires and pulling over for repairs. Blown tires? Goodyear? Talk about PR nightmares.

No word from Goodyear on this yet but the whole mess got me thinking about Vista. Microsoft continues to insist that Vista is good for us. The new ads — fruit of the now-famous $300 million campaign — are starting to hit in the New York Times and other venues. It’s not Vista that’s bad, it’s just that people are stupid. Get it? We are still dinosaurs in Microsoft’s view. Parenthetical question to Microsoft: Who’s getting more bang for the advertising buck? You or Crispin, Porter Bogusky? Not sure you’ll like the answer.

Microsoft execs were eloquent at the recent Worldwide Partner Conference in their contention that it is customers who run the relationship with vendors and solution providers. And, what customers have said — pretty clearly by now — is they don’t want Vista.

Now, tech vendors have to test customer inertia all the time. But the fact is that licensing constraints have forced good customers to pay for an operating system they don’t want. Worse, in effect, they force customers to pay for downgrading to an operating system they already had. In what universe is that a delightful customer experience?

Solution providers aren’t, by and large, happy about being the front men for this forced march on Microsoft’s roadmap. Especially when they make no money on it.

With apologies to Forrester Research, Vista is worse than New Coke.

So here’s a solution: If Microsoft thinks Vista is so great, it should use that $300 million and more to foot the bill for the migrations. In full. As someone who bought an HP laptop last year with Vista pre-installed simply because there was no choice, this appeals to me. Here’s betting that most companies with Enterprise Agreements wouldn’t return a Microsoft refund check to sender either. 

Let’s be clear. Vista did not disrupt my computing world. Much. It worked with the (albeit new) printer. The interface took some getting used to but wasn’t a big deal. So, here’s the thing: It’s not that Vista was so bad, it’s just that there was (is) no apparent benefit. Translucent icons? Give them to someone who gives a rat’s behind.

What I wanted, I did not get: That would be fast startup and shut down, and a browser that doesn’t freeze a few times a day. No one wants the annoying permission bubbles popping up ad nauseum. Popups do not increase security, they offload responsibility for security to paying customers. (This was first pointed out by a former Microsoft exec, btw.) No amount of glitzy advertising is going to change that.

Yes Microsoft, I’ll take that check any time.

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Right on target! As the US economy tanks, large software companies who have bet big on Security 2.0 technologies find that they must force feed the market in order to meet their quarterly expectations. Meanwhile, the business user community is under a "don't spend any money" budget mandate that forces them to focus on business-aligned IT objectives, not a major software+hardware refresh that not only doesn't alleviate any pain points but actually can spawn a whole host of new ones. Combine this with IT toolsets & seasoned tech support that is very XP-specific, and all sorts of multi-vendor interoperability issues, and you have a perfect Vista storm. All the PR in the world isn't going to budge the eye of this storm one inch - only time & fully-debugged 3rd party Vista-compatible application updates are going to enlarge the calm at the center where Vista, Windows Server 2008, and multi-vendor NAC/NAP components come together to create a workable Security 2.0 Architecture. Unfortunately for all the big dogs, the little dogs are all laying low for the summer - it's just too darn hot to play.