The OS Quest trail Log #26: Microsoft Edition

There wasn’t much forward movement on the Quest this week as my day job tended to take up all my time. I did add some disk to my Windows Home Server and began ripping some DVDs and moving other files to it. The only software update was a very minor update to iPhoto.

On the Windows side of things I’ve completed a migration from my Windows XP Home virtual machine under Parallels to a HP Vista Ultimate virtual machine under VMware on my iMac. This wasn’t much of a migration. The only thing I regularly use Windows for is running Windows Live Writer to create these blog posts. Other than that it’s minor stuff to amuse myself. My change to VMware was motivated by the minor feature of being able to share the same shortcut keys between OS X and the VM. I also find that VMware provides a bit better support for non-Windows OS’s.

Frustrations

I got hit by the Windows Home Server data corruption bug this week and had to revert to the backup of my iTunes library. I can’t complain, I knew of the bug and I knew iTunes was on the list off possible problem software. At least the backups worked and I didn’t lose anything more than a little time. Well, I can complain – the bug needs to be fixed. Home Server is a less useful when data can’t be saved directly to the server.

Software Updates

I already mentioned the minor iPhoto update. I still have three updates waiting. Even though it’s been out awhile I still haven’t updated to the latest Skype software for OS X. It’s also been out awhile but I’m still a minor update behind for WordPress, although I did apply the security component of that update. The latest addition to my to do list is a release of Acorn 1.1.

All of the pending updates fall into the category of software that’s working fine for my needs now and I don’t want to spend time troubleshooting new problems that might appear. But Acorn and Skype probably get update this week. The Acorn update is pretty significant but I lack the motivation for a WordPress upgrade even though I could probably get away with just copying out the new files.

Website Pages Updated

I’ve updated a couple of other pages on the site.

What I Use has had the hardware I use updated. No major additions.

Backup Strategy & Tools has been updated to reflect a few minor changes.

Microsoft

It seems I’ve been very Microsoft centric the past two weeks, between the Windows Home Server and installing a couple new Windows VMs. So a couple of the recent Microsoft stories caught my attention.

The most recent story was the price cut for some retail versions of Vista. Microsoft is cutting the retail price (this is boxed copies on store shelves) for Vista Ultimate and Vista Home Premium. Some have said this is because Vista is a damaged product:

Vista is a damaged product that lacks many of the important elements a good operating system would boast. And although it may be a bit cheaper, it’s still not the OS XP was. Say what you will about Windows, but as it stands, XP is one of the best operating systems on the market today and Microsoft shouldn’t lose sight of that.

While I don’t dispute the assertion that Vista has a bad reputation today, if we go back it time to 2005 we see that CNet was also reporting problems with the acceptance of Windows XP at the time.

I seem to remember Windows XP being beaten up pretty good until recently. personally, I dumped Windows XP at home from Windows to OS X. I’d agree it has the largest installed base. I’m not sure I’d agree it’s better than Vista, it depends on how “better” is defined.

On the other hand I don’t see much benefit to the price cut. If people bought a new PC in the past year they had an opportunity to get Vista. Maybe this will spur them the upgrade to a higher flavor? If they didn’t buy Vista with the PC at the time are they really going to spend more money now to get Vista? I think not, although the price drop will coincide with Windows Vista SP1 so there might be a few people who take the plunge. If people bought a PC in 2006 they probably shouldn’t upgrade to Vista, unless they bought what was a high-end machine at the time, so I don’t see price doing much. And if people do buy it and install it on older machines it will only hurt Vista’s reputation even more.

Most copies of Vista will be sold with new hardware, as it should be. No one has mentioned an OEM price drop so this doesn’t seem to be big news. Now if Microsoft was to reduce the number of Vista flavors – Vista Home Premium, Vista Enterprise and maybe Vista Ultimate seems like a good mix (although I’d drop Ultimate – sell the added features as an add-in pack if you must) – then it would be big news and a real improvement. Then reduce the price even more.

The second story was the news that Microsoft had internal dissension over the Vista Capable program. To me this is a bigger problem for Microsoft (and I don’t mean the lawsuit itself) than any Vista problems.

Based on the e-mails it appears Microsoft was more concerned about keeping their partners happy and able to meet their profit targets. They needed to sell older chipsets to do this. These chipsets didn’t have the graphics power needed for some Vista features.

We have removed the requirement for Vista Capable machines … This was based on a huge concern raised by Intel…

This let Intel keep selling their older chipsets. What’s interesting here is that companies which were closer to the PC end-users didn’t seem to like this change. Even though on the surface it appears their marketing departments would have liked the change (assuming marketing always has a short-term view)

Ramano [John Romano, Senior VP of HP’s Consumer PC Group] specifically told Jim that HP will invest in graphics if MS would give him 100% assurance that we would not budge for Intel.

So HP was willing to invest the money to meet the requirements of Vista as long as they knew they could count on Microsoft to force Intel’s hand (Oh well). Even Wal-Mart was unhappy with the change, and they sell low-end, low-cost PCs.

Wal-Mart was very vocal today regarding the Windows Vista Capable messaging. They are extremely disappointed in the fact that standards were lowered and feel like customer confusion will ensue. … They also went so far as to say they wish Windows Home Basic was not even in the SKU lineup. … Please give this some consideration; it would be a lot less costly to do the right thing for the customer now than to spend dollars on the back end trying to fix the problem.

It appears Wal-Mart was able to predict the future. Yet, despite these protests from retailers who sell directly to end-users Microsoft appears to have been more concerned with keeping Intel happy.

I’ve been of the opinion that Microsoft has lost site of their customer and it’s their biggest problem. Now Microsoft is a big company and not everyone is completely desensitized to the computer user, but once the bureaucracy kicks in it seems territories and internal politics take precedence over product quality and customer experience. Hopefully Microsoft will learn from this and focus on the product and customer experience again.