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A third of Vista PCs downgraded to XP

Microsoft pins hopes on lucky number 7

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Vista’s death march picked up some pace yesterday, after a metrics researcher revealed that nearly 35 per cent of PCs built to run the Windows operating system have been downgraded to XP.

In a survey of more than 3,000 computers, performance testing software developer Devil Mountain Software estimated that more than one in three new machines had either been downgraded by vendors such as Dell, or by customers once they bought the PC.

The results were garnered by the research firm’s CTO Craig Barth in collaboration with InfoWorld. He based the numbers on Devil Mountain’s Exo.performance.network by collating the vendor and system model number with computer vendors’ catalogues.

Barth used that data to identify PCs that had probably been shipped within the past six months – a period of time when it was highly likely that most new machines came pre-installed with Vista.

That’s a damning verdict on an OS that Microsoft still wants frustrated customers to love.

But even in Redmond the mood has undergone a somewhat dramatic shift in recent days. Microsoft wonks are now doing their best to stoke up interest about Windows 7, the successor to Vista. The company’s Windows’ boss Steven Sinofsky has even started up a new blog ("honestly, I penned it," he proclaims) about the next operating system to ram home the message that Microsoft can do “disclosure” and deliver on time.

The software beast has already admitted it made some pretty big mistakes with Vista. Now, after trying some heavy duty marketing, Microsoft has finally conceded it’s high time to move on by explaining how MS will engineer Windows 7.

Cue Sinofsky comparing his Windows team to a Mozart opera... and also Goldilocks.

“I'm reminded of a scene from Amadeus," he chimed, "where the Emperor suggests that the Marriage of Figaro contains ‘too many notes’ to which Mozart proclaims ‘there are just as many notes, Majesty, as are required, neither more nor less.’ Upon the Emperor suggesting that Mozart remove a few notes, Mozart simply asks ‘which few did you have in mind?’.

“Of course the people on the team represent the way we get feature requests implemented and develop end to end scenarios, so the challenge is to have the right team and the right structure to maximise the ability to get those done – neither too many nor too few.”

Whether the three bears – Apple, Linux and EU/US regulators – will wade in to spoil the party remains to be seen. But Microsoft really does need to dish up an operating system that is "just right" this time. ®

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