Microsoft's opinion that Vista's troubles are all in users' heads -- and not in the OS's performance -- was supported by a company experiment.

Paul McDougall, Editor At Large, InformationWeek

July 29, 2008

3 Min Read

Windows Vista's troubles are all in users' heads, Microsoft believes -- and to prove it the company set up a blind study in which subjects were asked to watch a video demonstration of what they were told was its forthcoming "Mojave" operating system.

The subjects, according to a video that Microsoft posted Tuesday of the experiment, were immediately sold on Mojave. "It's awesome," gushed one. "The speed is incredible," said another. "I'd give it a 10," raved yet another.

What the subjects weren't told was that they were actually watching a demo of Windows Vista in action -- an OS that most had previously said they wouldn't purchase under any circumstances.

In setting up the experiment, Microsoft appears to be implying that it believes that negative perceptions around Vista are the result of overly critical media coverage and ubiquitous Apple ads that depict the operating system as slow and stodgy when compared to the younger, hipper Leopard OS for the Mac.

Microsoft said it conducted its Mojave experiment "so regular people who've never used Windows Vista could see what it can do -- and decide for themselves." Microsoft has also hired agency Crispin, Porter, & Bogusky to create a marketing campaign to burnish Vista's image.

But Microsoft's attempt to pin Vista's relative unpopularity on pundits and competitors appears to ignore the fact that the OS is faring worst in the business market, where technology platform decisions are made by paid professionals who aren't as impressionable as consumer users.

Earlier this week, a Hewlett-Packard official told the Australian IT magazine APC that the majority of business customers are asking the computer maker to downgrade new systems from Vista to Windows XP prior to shipping. And a senior Symantec official told InformationWeek that very few of the security software maker's large enterprise customers have upgraded to Vista.

IT managers have cited Vista's resource requirements, intrusive security features, and lack of compatibility with older software among their reasons for not moving to the OS.

Some posters on Microsoft's Windows Vista blog questioned the Mojave experiment's conditions, where users apparently could only watch Vista but could not interact with it. "I would probably rate Vista higher if I could pay someone to run it for me like your demo has," wrote 'DsmToday'. "Unfortunately, I have to use it myself, and that is why regardless of whatever your demos stats are, I know for a fact that Vista is waaaay more awkward to use than WinXP."

"Were the test subjects allowed to take Windows Mojave home with them to see if it was compatible for their personal needs?" asked another poster to the blog.

Others, however, said the subjects' reaction to Vista was consistent with their own experience with the software. "I have used Vista daily since it came out and it rings true for me that your focus group would be generally impressed. Vista in terms of user experience, look and feel etc. is pretty good," wrote 'JulianGall'.

Microsoft said it conducted the Mojave experiment over three days in San Francisco before 120 subjects. The company said the subjects, on average, gave Vista a rating of 4.4 out of 10 prior to participating. The average rating jumped to 8.5 after the subjects watched the demo, according to the company.

About the Author(s)

Paul McDougall

Editor At Large, InformationWeek

Paul McDougall is a former editor for InformationWeek.

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