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Microsoft E-Mails: PCs Were Not So Vista-Ready After All

You might remember a lawsuit filed claiming that Microsoft labeled PCs as Windows Vista capable when they were only really capable of running one version of Vista, the low-level Vista Home Basic.

Well, this week, we found out as part of the suit's legal proceedings that there was more to the story than just a bit of allegedly misleading marketing. Apparently, there was something resembling mass confusion inside Microsoft, including fairly high-ranking executives -- Mike Nash and Jim Allchin among them -- questioning what on earth was going on with the whole Vista labeling campaign. One employee even said in an e-mail that a "piece of junk" PC could still qualify for a Vista Ready label.

Now, companies screw stuff up all the time, sometimes unintentionally and sometimes somewhat more intentionally. What seems to have happened at Microsoft sounds like confusion and disorganization, which, again, isn't unusual in companies of 70,000 people.

But, it does seem unfortunate that Microsoft apparently did such a poor job of managing a not-unimportant aspect of the biggest release in years of its flagship product. The result was, at the very least, confusion among consumers -- and maybe even (we're speculating here) some confusion among and ill will from customers toward Microsoft partners as well (if, that is, any customers have actually decided to deploy Vista).

This little story just makes us wonder what else Microsoft is capable of botching. In business, especially the software business, the devil is always in the details, and Microsoft folks should know that by now. We're also not thrilled with the tone execs took in their e-mails -- check the RCP story linked above (and here again). They seem to, first off, not entirely know what's going on, and secondly, point fingers at underlings for screwing up. Of course, we're just getting tiny samples here.

In the long run, this little Vista labeling debacle isn't that big of a deal -- and, of course, no matter what happens, according to RCPU's incontrovertible law, Microsoft will make more money. But if you're wondering why Vista has been a mitigated success at best, maybe it's time to start asking questions about whether Redmond has lost some of its focus, especially on core products. And maybe it's time to wonder just how capable Microsoft would be of absorbing a monster like Yahoo after all.

What's your take on Microsoft's Vista labeling fiasco? Do you find that the company is losing focus? Let me know at lpender@rcpmag.com.

Posted by Lee Pender on February 14, 2008 at 11:54 AM


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