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HP exec to MS: we'd dump Windows if we could

An everyday tale of love among the OEM contracts...

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Microsoft's efforts to control the desktop via the "Windows Experience" prompted Hewlett-Packard's R&D manager to tell the company: "If we had the choice of another supplier, based on your actions in this area, I assure you would not be our supplier of choice." John Romano was writing to Microsoft business manager Dave Wright in 1997, and was seriously ballistic on the subject of Microsoft's "edicts", which he claimed had had the net effect of seriously damaging HP's PC business, forcing up returns and tech support calls. "As was clearly stated on many occasions to you and other members of the [Microsoft] OEM team, Microsoft's mandated removal of all OEM boot sequence and autostart programs for OEM licensed systems has resulted in significant and costly problems for the HP-Pavilion line of retail PCs." Microsoft had in this period been progressively forcing OEMs to remove tailored software from their systems so that all PC users had a standard, "consistent Windows Experience". Romano goes on: "Our data (as of 3/10/97) shows a ten per cent increase in W95 calls as a percentage of our total customer support calls (increase from 23.72 per cent to 33.51 per cent). This data is measured against a base of 109k calls for the pre-OSR2 'Microsoft-mandated changes'. The base for the post measure is 28k. This is enough to ensure a high degree of significance to the data. "Our registration rate has dropped from the mid-80 per cent range to the low 60 per cent range. "There is also subjective data from several channel partners that our system return rate has increased from the lowest of any OEM (even lower than Apple) to a level comparable to the other Microsoft OEM PC vendors." Hewlett-Packard had basically been attempting to differentiate its PCs by adding software which made them easier to set up and use, but as this interfered with the "Windows Experience", it had been forced to dump all of this under the contract for the OSR2 version of Windows 95. Romano is therefore saying that Microsoft's demands for control of the desktop were making his PCs less usable, and produced the data to back this up. "This situation must change. We find Microsoft control over our Customer's Out of Box experience totally unacceptable." Register historical factoid: In early 1995, Microsoft was flexing its muscles over OEM requirements for the then forthcoming Windows 95 product. Jacques Clay, wily French boss of HP's PC operation, really did threaten to ship OS/2 instead, and secured some easing of terms from Microsoft. ® Complete Register trial coverage

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