100,000 customers tell Microsoft to save XP

The real intent of the Save Windows XP campaign explained and the stakes involved for business and home users. Will Microsoft listen to 100,000 customers?

It's not about Microsoft's XP support

A more rational version of that argument is that there's nothing to worry about, since Microsoft will continue to support XP for some time. That's true, but we have not criticized Microsoft's XP support plans. We have criticized Microsoft for ending the availability of XP on new machines past the June 30 end-of-sales date. There's a huge different between support and sales. It does you no good to have ongoing XP support if you can't get XP on a new system.

It is about controlling your environment

What we've heard loud and clear from both IT professionals and end-users is that many of them do not want Vista. They tend to have different reasons.

For IT, the reasons center on the cost of training, deployment, and support. The biggest concern is over compatibility -- both for hardware and software. Vista has major compatibility issues, which Gartner says likely won't be truly fixed for another year. Not all of this is Microsoft's fault, but this issue isn't about fault. The issue is the liability of moving to Vista. Until Microsoft significantly reduces that liability, XP should be easy to obtain as needed.

Vista does bring IT some advantages, but IT people we spoke with also recognize that users don't get much from Vista, at least not on the surface. So deploying Vista is just another project that IT needs to prepare for and prioritize under its own schedule, not Microsoft's.

Individual users and small businesses are particularly adverse to Vista. There are several reasons, but two come up most often.

One is that Vista represents a significant shift in user interface, to one that is harder to use than XP's. In an attempt to shield users from the OS, Microsoft has hidden or done away with many menu options. I can't tell you how many calls I got from friends and family members who simply couldn't find anything on their new Vista systems. (I've downgraded them all to the XP they know and understand.) Maybe they could figure it out at some point, but they don't see why they should just so they can check e-mail, play a game, or bring some work home. I've been a user of every desktop OS since the Apple IIe's -- including every version of DOS, Windows, and Mac OS, as well as some versions of GEM, OS/2, and VAX/VMS -- and I struggled with Vista's interface. I too went back to XP.

The other reason is compatibility. A lot of software and hardware doesn't work with Vista. People can't afford to keep buying new stuff just to maintain compatibility with a new OS. It might be good for the economy if they could, but let's get real. Software and hardware vendors should update their software for compatibility at no charge to their customers (Microsoft can foot the bill if it insists on an OS change that breaks correctly designed software and hardware drivers).

The larger issue underlying all of this is the fact that Windows is not merely a product. It is a fundamental part of the global infrastructure, like the Internet and the internal combustion engine. When Microsoft changes that infrastructure, the human and economic effects are huge.

At its scale, I personally believe that Microsoft has to be a steward of the public good, not just a vendor. This is at the heart of why the European Union has been after Microsoft for a decade, and why a century ago the US and European nations started regulating utilities, banks, and manufacturers with similar reach. They're not just selling toothpaste and soda pop.

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