Software // Enterprise Applications
Commentary
12/8/2006
05:20 PM
John Soat
John Soat
Commentary
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IT Confidential: Microsoft Is Mired In Vista, Report Says

Recommendations include more education for support personnel, a greater level of cooperation among disparate camps, more help from allies, and more emphasis on security and smooth operation

I recently came into possession of a manuscript called the Vista Study Group Report. Don’t ask me how I got it: Let’s just say it involved a parking garage, a cigarette-smoking man, and a code name inspired by a Robert Redford movie.

The Vista Study Group Report is a brutally honest assessment of Microsoft’s marketing campaign for Windows Vista. It was solicited by Bill Gates, who is otherwise occupied, and written by a bipartisan committee of experts, including several former Microsoft executives, a retired engineer on the original IBM PC project, a federal prosecutor, a spammer, and a part-time salesman at Best Buy named Larry. The report features an executive summary and a list of 79 recommendations. Here’s a sample.

  • Many say Vista is bloated and unwieldy, has too many lines of code, and that Microsoft should immediately consider a change of product strategy. We say: Stay the course, don’t cut lines of code and run. An abrupt about-face now, in favor of thin-client technology and abandoning the "rich client" strategy Microsoft has followed for so long, would risk chaos. Better to keep adding code through Vista upgrades and prepare an exit strategy by acquiring a small open source operating system.
  • According to a survey by Softchoice, a Canadian IT services provider, only about half the corporate PCs in North America are able to run Vista. That means one of two things: Microsoft will have to be satisfied with a slow, steady uptake by corporate users, as they work through current 48- to 60-month PC upgrade cycles, or it will have to infect the Windows 95, 98, 2000, and ME PCs still out there with a deadly virus. We hesitate to recommend a WMD approach, but business is business.
  • Steve Ballmer is a polarizing figure in the software community and Microsoft should consider easing him out. We hear President Bush is looking for a new ambassador to the United Nations.
  • Microsoft must solidify its strong position among its manufacturing allies and seek to head off defections to the Linux camp. Along the same lines, Microsoft should engage in a series of high-profile meetings with Intel, while maintaining its backdoor negotiations with AMD.
  • Microsoft should proactively attack its security problems and release a wave of Vista security patches while the operating system is still something of an unknown quantity. Microsoft can package them as Vista Security Add-Ons.
  • In order to appeal to a younger demographic, and to counteract Apple’s effective "I’m a Mac" advertising campaign, Microsoft should consider a hip spokesperson who can articulate the message knowledgeably and with style, such as Steve Jobs. Hey, enough money, you never know.
  • Conclusion: Microsoft is engaged in one of its most aggressive campaigns to date. Before it’s over, Microsoft will have spent $450 million marketing its new operating system, Vista, as well as new versions of the Office software suite and the Exchange messaging system. These recommendations are meant to clarify issues surrounding the campaign and justify its expense. Including our salaries.

    NOTE: Several people have written to ask about my use of the term "spike" in regard to E-mail. According to Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, the second definition of spike, vt, is "to suppress or block completely." Spike is also an old editorial term meaning reject, nix, get out of my face, etc. In the Quark publishing system, which my company uses, we have a queue for discarded files called "Spike." But don’t spike that industry tip, send it to jsoat@cmp.com or call 516-562-5326.


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