An Opportunity For Windows 7 - InformationWeek

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IoT
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Infrastructure // PC & Servers
Commentary
7/23/2009
06:46 PM
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An Opportunity For Windows 7

Walt Mossberg, the Wall Street Journal's gizmo guru, reviewed Windows 7 today and said it's the improvement over XP that Vista wasn't, and that it could be a dicey install for some consumers. Putting these two observations together could make for an opportunity.

Walt Mossberg, the Wall Street Journal's gizmo guru, reviewed Windows 7 today and said it's the improvement over XP that Vista wasn't, and that it could be a dicey install for some consumers. Putting these two observations together could make for an opportunity.I'm convinced that people buy computers, not operating systems. An OS is like the laws of physics, or the recipe for highway pavement; it's something you take for granted, and unconsciously rely on never having to consciously think otherwise. Changing the OS on an existing computer feels kinda like ordering an entirely new wardrobe, only replacing every item with the exact same thing...and not knowing if the stuff is going to fit, wear as well, etc.

So it's good news that Mossberg says Windows 7 works (a solid differentiation from the rap Vista received). But I'm not sure that's enough to warrant the purchase, or switch. I think the opportunity might be for Microsoft to help consumers self-identify whether they need the new OS or not and, based on Mossberg's other observation about installation, help them get it working right.

Think of the Windows 7 brand as purpose and service, not simply an OS.

By purpose, I mean give consumers reasons to buy the product. What does it do that XP/Vista couldn't? What use(s) is it uniquely suited to accomplish? The standard blablah about enhancements, improvements, or other nuanced attributes mean something to technologists, but are lost on rank-and-file consumers. Nobody wants to risk the contents of a beloved hard drive on making organizing photos marginally better. By giving certain users compelling reasons to do the install, they'd be somewhat inured toward potential difficulties. Not everyone is a potential customer; the laundry detergent marketers have known this for years.

The service part of the equation could be simple: Microsoft could add some dedicated install service -- a backup file copier, maybe online, and other hands-on support -- so that folks felt comfortable making the change. Like the upfront tutorial in a video game, it would be a chance to ensure that consumers really got a handle on how to use the OS. There could be tie-ins at retail (a Geek Squad Conversion Swat Team), and add-ons for an ongoing relationship (I've never understood why updates are handled autonomously and silently; why couldn't every update be an opportunity to present the benefits of an upgrade?).

Of course, the easiest way to market Windows 7 will be to make it the default OS on all new Wintel boxes. But Mossberg's review suggests that Microsoft could do more with it, and perhaps strengthen its branding while doing so.

Jonathan Salem Baskin writes the Dim Bulb blog and is the author of Branding Only Works On Cattle.

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