Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/07/29/vista_taste_test_challenge/

Microsoft Mojave 'outs' secret Vista lovers

Old battle, new cry

By Gavin Clarke

Posted in Operating Systems, 29th July 2008 23:29 GMT

Analysis If you listen very carefully, you'll hear a new beat coming from the drums in Microsoft's marketing department these days.

After two years in embarrassed silence, people have come out pumped up and taking no prisoners.

The message has come from the top and is beginning to percolate. "Windows Vista is great, just misunderstood," Redmond says. "Apple has twisted the facts and mislead gullible users, and analysts that criticize Windows Vista are either crazy or unreliable. Who can you trust? Microsoft."

The latest manifestation in this unfolding campaign is the Mojave Experiment, where Microsoft tricked ordinary people into liking Windows Vista, caught their reactions on "secret" camera and then posted them online. This follows the hardballing of analysts it disagrees with. We've been promised there's more to come. Can't wait.

Why, now that we're into Vista's second year and after the first Service Pack has launched, is Microsoft getting gung ho, especially if - as it claims - license sales are set to bust those of Windows XP?

The reason is that while the campaign is new, the issues for Microsoft are timeless, and it hasn't done itself any favors.

Windows Vista prior to SP 1 failed to meet the needs of ordinary users. And no amount of blaming Apple, analysts or stooopid users was going to change that.

A major block was the lack of third-party hardware or software support. What good is a PC operating system if there's no applications or peripherals to work with it?

Tellingly, Mojave seeks to address this. The web site notes there now exists 5,500 compatible devices and 3,500 software programs for Vista. But that's half as many devices as the company bragged about a year ago. Six months after Microsoft's January 2007 "consumer launch," it said 10,000 devices and 1,900 applications. No, we're not sure about the 10,000 number either, but it's possible Microsoft changed the metrics along the way.

Microsoft chief operating officer Kevin Turner at the time of giving out the second set of numbers to partners last summer said: "We've made a big turn around on the application compatibility story, and we're just getting started."

The other big hurdle has been in getting Windows Vista to run properly on the average PC. Microsoft as good as admitted there was a problem with its Vista-ready and Vista-capable programs, and it has been in firefighting mode ever since, offering advice on how to speed up your PC to run Windows Vista.

The Mojave Experiment makes a point of saying it's using Windows Vista Ultimate on a regular, 2GB RAM, Intel Core 2 Due Hewlett-Packard PC. Nothing fancy there.

Bit fiddler

Except that as one former Microsoft Valued Professional pointed out in response to a blog from Windows client team communications director Chris Flores on Mojave, reality is different from a test machine. As we all know, most PCs soon begin to slow down in the real world.

"I am very capable of taking midline hardware and making XP screamingly fast on it, out of box. Once I start loading software and Active X objects and web components and spyware and spyware fighters well then everything gets sloowwww," the ex-MVP said. "Wanna see fast? Install [Windows] 98 on modern hardware, doesn't mean it's a secure or well-built OS."

It remains to be seen whether the Mojave Experiment will tackle these challenges. From what we can see in these very edited videos, there's a lot of focus on wowing users with eye candy. It's pitching against Windows XP and Apple on "look and feel", "new features" and "completeness", by picking on things like Gadgets and the Media Center.

Problem is, few doubted Windows Vista had eye candy. It certainly looked better than Windows XP and it's fair to say it's in the OS X ballpark, thanks to juicy, reflective graphics, media capabilities, and widgetized functionality outside the browser.

The real job of work for Mojave, and the reason Microsoft is trying to alter public perceptions at this stage, lies in the need to quickly move users off old versions of Windows and prevent losses to Apple.

According to the Mojave Experiment site - and beware, the numbers don't exactly add up - users of Windows XP plus a surprisingly large number of users on pre-Windows XP systems - were the majority of participants. There was also a contingent of Apple users.

While legacy versions of Windows and competition from Apple are not new challenges, there's an extra few problems this time around. Upgrades are being made harder now that you have OEMs like Dell still selling Windows XP and making Windows Vista available as an upgrade option. Also, Apple was a long way behind on the desktop, but its now enjoying a surge in sales.

And here we get to the real crux of the Mojave Experiment: the need to address failing Microsoft targets for upgrades and conversions to Windows Vista.

The original target for Windows Vista was so simple it was a no brainer: in an ever expanding-PC market, outsell Windows XP. According to a Microsoft-sponsored IDC report in 2006, Microsoft wanted to have 100 million machines running Windows Vista a year after the January 2007 launch. Then 200 million by January 2009.

Microsoft claimed to have sold 100 million Windows Vista licenses by January 2008 and - as of the end of its fiscal year - 180 million.

On paper, therefore, 200 million by the January 2009 should be a breeze. It took two and a half years for Windows XP to break the 200 million mark - 210 million by March 2004.

Licenses versus users

Not quite. That 180 million total is licenses sold and does not equate to end users, especially not when companies are downgrading to Windows XP and Dell is offering Windows XP with the option to later upgrade to Windows Vista. In these cases, Vista licenses are getting purchased. They are being bought by OEMs. Joe Wilcox provides more of a break down here.

Microsoft is behind the curve on Windows Vista upgrades thanks to the product's short comings, OEMs disrupting the upgrade cycle, and Apple proving more than an irritating distraction to end users.

The Windows Vista SP 1 represents a second bite at the cherry for Microsoft. And the Mojave Experiment, complete with a muscular upbraiding of those who disagree with it on Windows Vista, is marketing's attempt to capitalize on that.®