Win2k everywhere: 70 per cent of you will upgrade

Hope triumphs over experience, apparently...

Further evidence has emerged of Microsoft's determination to push Windows 2000 hard when it finally ships. Group VP Jeff Raikes yesterday told an investment conference that he expects 70 per cent of existing Windows machines will be upgraded. If that one comes true it'll put many a dollar into Microsoft's coffers, but how likely is it? And what evidence is Raikes basing his claims on? He thinks that 70 per cent of existing Windows machines are capable of running Win2k, and apart from thinking that this is not true, you might also think the strange coincidence of percentages just a little bit eerie. So everybody who can upgrade to Win2k will upgrade? Very weird notion indeed. Compare and contrast with what Microsoft was saying about likely Windows 95 take-up prior to that launch -- Steve Ballmer trailed a few numbers in front of the analysts, but they weren't consistent numbers, and more often the company said that it frankly did not know. Which it didn't, in the case of upgrades. Microsoft knows almost absolutely how many new machines are going to ship with new operating systems, because it's already signed off its contracts with virtually all of the PC manufacturers. There's obviously some room for variation if the customers still have a choice, but MDAs (Market Development Agreements) build financial carrots and sticks into the deals so the OEMs are encouraged to ship what Microsoft wants them to ship. Microsoft does not, however, know about upgrade and retail sales, which is the area Raikes is talking about. It might, if it looks back at the inglorious history of its retail OS assaults, have a pretty shrewd idea that in fact, most users do not upgrade their existing OS -- they upgrade when they buy a new PC. Windows 95 retail sales, despite the hoopla, were not particularly impressive. So if Raikes thinks with Win2k it's going to be different, a lot different, unprecedentedly different, we can presume the mother of all marketing campaigns when the product's rolled out. Raikes, by the way, repeats that it's on target for release to manufacture by the end of the year. Of course there's one way Microsoft might be able to get very high upgrade rates (actually there are several, but the others aren't legal) -- it could give the Win2k upgrade away. It's a thought, isn't it? ®

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