I mentioned in a post on blogging yesterday that when you have a differing opinion, it’s always best practice to play the idea and not the man when arguing against something. So I apologize in advance, because sometimes a post is so out of touch that you can’t avoid playing the man and the ball.
CNet’s Don Reisinger has delivered a post so bizarre it needs a serious response. In “Windows 7 must appeal to geeks–or else” Reisinger argues in 882 words while keeping a straight face that the key to success for the next version of Windows is keeping geeks happy, because geeks took down Vista. It gets better, because according to Reisinger most people are retarded and look to geeks for advice or get their news second hand from geeks, ipso facto geeks are the center of the universe and geeks will make or break Windows 7.
Now there’s probably a decent case around supporting the notion that geeks should inherit the earth, and how much better we’d all be for it, but that isn’t the case today, and it won’t be tomorrow, next year, or 2020…whenever Microsoft launches Windows 7.
Geeks didn’t bring down Vista, Microsoft did. Geeks were not the root cause of all the bad stories about Vista, the product was. Geeks may help Microsoft sell Windows 7, but the main selling point will be the product itself.
Even in the post Reisinger contradicts himself as he mentions the negative press coverage. The thing he misses is that journalists don’t necessarily equal geeks, even if some of them are. We agree on the point that the wall of negative press contributed to the negative perceptions in the general population, but there’s no great big arrow saying geeks did this either.
We know why Vista failed. Vista failed because it was a poor product when it was released. It lacked support for hardware, software, and if you didn’t have a brand new computer with it installed, it sucked even more. I should know, I switched to being a Mac user because of Vista…and I’m probably a geek, and I couldn’t handle the problems Vista had. Reisinger contends that bad news is fed from the top (being geeks) down, but he ignores the simple fact that most of negative word of mouth came from people who tried Vista themselves, the great unwashed of non-geeks. Hands on use outside the non-geek community was the killer, because basic logic would dictate that most geeks would be able to deal with Vista issues when they arise, non-geeks can’t, at least at the same level. Vista was a crisis in end user usability that gained bad word of mouth from the bottom up, not the other way around.
Reisinger quotes the Mojave Experiment as proof of his point, and yet I don’t recall seeing geeks in those commercials. The Mojave Experiment was an ad campaign aimed directly at the general population that tackled the negative word of mouth THEY had been sharing, nothing a geek had said or done.
Reisinger then argues that the key to Windows 7 should be paved with geek reachout, or “Make sure the geeks love it” as he says. But nothing could be further from the truth. While keeping everyone onside is an obvious marketing and sales strategy Microsoft should and will follow, the key to success in Windows 7 is split between corporates and consumers, with geeks off to the side as an afterthought. The primary objective is to get the product 100% right the day it launches. The second objective is to present a sales case to corporates and consumers. While the natural inclination in most companies is to target the corporate space first, Microsoft’s split and revenue streams are strong on both fronts, so both need to be included. They need to get Windows 7 onto corporate desktops ASAP to expose consumers to the product. By the time 7 launches, many corporations will have been running XP or even 2000 for an exceptionally long time, and if they cut off XP support, 7 will be a natural progression path. For consumers, it’s about end delivery and ease of use. Microsoft needs to borrow the Mac line of it just works, and immediately create positive word of mouth. It’s a fresh start, and done well it will save the Windows franchise.
We also have to accept that Reisinger’s view of the great unwashed technologically retarded outside the geek space is incorrect:
The one thing I don’t understand about Microsoft and countless other companies in the technology industry is why they don’t realize that the influential people are not the average John and Jane Doe. Instead, the technology industry is dominated by a select few who tell their friends and family why a certain product or service is useless.
That may have been the case 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago, but it ignores a simple fact that today most households have a computer, many have more, and most have internet access. That is not to say that some have more knowledge than others, and that turning to a relative or friend with a higher understanding of technology isn’t a common occurrence. But Reisinger ignores the fact that in 2008, most families have a base level of technological understanding and knowledge that 20 or even 10 years ago would have been thought impossible. Most people can insert a DVD is a PC and use it. Most can install a program. Everyone with internet access can open a web page. Where as when I was 12 one of my teachers suggested that submitting an assignment typed on a computer may have been cheating, today kids have laptops in class. The base line today is that nearly everyone in the western world knows how to use a computer, and they are able to form an opinion independent of a geek elite. Windows 7 will be a sales challenge, and with a great product they will win this segment even if every geek on the planet says its sucks.