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Microsoft Tries To Defend Vista

There was a Vista partner panel at the Worldwide Partner Conference on Tuesday: Three partners sat in a small conference room and talked about their Vista experiences at the prompting of a Forrester analyst. They said a lot of stuff, but it's what they didn't say that really stuck with us.

They said that developers in their organizations loved Vista -- and developers do tend to love it. They talked about certification processes. They discussed driver compatibility problems a little bit. But, by design or otherwise, they stayed miles away from the real issue surrounding the beleaguered operating system: user acceptance.

And when a question about users' attitude toward Vista finally came up at the very end of the session -- asked by RCP columnist Josh Greenbaum, no less -- the one answer that came out was circumspect at best. Philip Lieberman, president of Lieberman Software, a Gold Certified Partner, said this: "We're seeing five years, seven-year deployments of XP. I'm sure there are people now getting XP machines that are replacing Windows 3.1."

Lieberman also said that Vista is becoming a "check-off item" -- in other words, something so common that nobody asks questions when it comes on a new PC.

In fairness to Lieberman and the other panelists, they didn't have much time to answer Josh's question. And Microsoft did promise to have the panelists answer further questions individually later on. But the fact that the panel didn't lead with the one issue -- user acceptance -- that really matters most in any IT deployment speaks volumes about how Microsoft is communicating on Vista.

Tuesday morning, Brad Brooks, Microsoft's corporate vice president for online services and Windows, gave a speech on Vista that was intended to be rousing but left the Toyota Center crowd a bit flat. Brooks talked about how much more secure Vista is than XP, and he reminded us that XP got a cool reception of its own back in 2002. He said that he was out to bust myths about Vista.

But Brooks didn't really say much about enterprise adoption of Vista -- there were no numbers bandied about on that front -- or user satisfaction with the OS. He did say that Windows 7 will build on Vista, a message that Microsoft might want to consider fine-tuning (or scrapping) if it wants users to ever quit XP.

Microsoft is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to advertise Vista and combat the damaging (and brilliant) Mac Guy ads that Apple unleashed a couple of years ago. We'll see where that campaign goes; we didn't really see much of an example of if this week.

But all the speeches and spending in the world can't make people like an OS that has its strong points but is frankly too big, too complicated and too clunky for a world in which everything is becoming smaller, simpler and more streamlined. Microsoft missed with Vista. Maybe it's time for Redmond to accept that and move on.

Posted by Lee Pender on July 09, 2008 at 11:54 AM