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?

Something's rotten in Redmond

Some people have accused the petition of an anti-Microsoft bias -- which we believe the very positive reviews of Windows Server 2008, among other products, belies. But it is fair to say that we believe that Microsoft is wrong about Vista and needs to stop pretending that all is well.

The whole Vista effort has been a series of missteps and miscues. The OS shipped three years late, minus many of the key features originally touted. Starved of OS upgrade revenue, Microsoft rushed the end of XP's life -- originally giving it just a year, then extending it to 18 months.

A Microsoft spokesperson told us that there is no standard transition period for major software at Microsoft; instead, there's an assumed five-year life for a major software product, and the overlap depends on when the replacement actually shifts. In Vista's case, the new OS took more than five years to ship, forcing XP to stay on the market for more than its planned five-year lifespan. Microsoft had to actually decide what the overlap would be by essentially extending XP's life. So it initially gave us a year -- gee, thanks. Analysts we spoke with recommended that Microsoft provide customers at least two years for transition, regardless of when the products actually ship. Microsoft should take their advice and base its transition plans on what's good for customers, not on internal sales milestones.

The Vista missteps continue. A few weeks ago, there were the rapid-fire series of mistakes with Vista SP1, with several significant flaws making their way into the version sent to manufacturing and provided to some customers.

Shortly after that we learned that Microsoft's own executives had compatibility problems with Vista when it was released. If Microsoft's own execs had these problems, how could the company expect users not to?

Those embarrassing revelations came in court documents that pointed out a more serious problem: Microsoft misled customers as to whether their systems and peripherals could handle Vista. The company decided to certify whole swaths of hardware it knew were not really Vista-capable as "Vista Capable." (Buyers whose systems were clearly not Vista-capable sued, and that case is what produced the internal documentation.) Jim Allchin, the Vista chief, said in court filings that he was unaware of that decision; whether true or not, that fiasco shows yet again how dysfunctional Microsoft's Vista management was.

And this rocky history shows why XP should be kept available for new sales as long as the market is not ready for Vista. Microsoft has mishandled and underdelivered on Vista, and it should not expect its customers to pay for its own mistakes.

The only option available

The bottom line is that the rush to force Vista on everyone is just wrong. Contrary to the claims of Mac and Linux zealots, most people don't really have much choice. You can't vote with your feet. This is not a free market where there are lots of options that customers can switch among as needed -- there's even less choice than for TV or phone service (which interestingly enough remains somewhat regulated because of that fact). The price to switch to Mac OS or Linux is quite high.

The only sensible choice is for customers to pressure Microsoft to do the right thing. That's the real intent of the "Save XP" campaign. Whether you sign the petition or instead tell Microsoft directly what you think, now is the time to do so. The clock is ticking, and in fewer than four months there won't be an XP option for most of you.

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Galen Gruman

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