by Shane O'Neill

Love for Windows: The Real Thing or a Marriage of Convenience?

Apr 09, 20094 mins
Data Center

In a year that started with weak revenues and layoffs, being on the Windows team at Microsoft doesn’t seem like a bad place to be right now. You’ve got year-over-year gains in Windows PC sales; an effective “I’m a PC” ad campaign running on TV; diminished Mac sales as consumers hunker down in a bad economy.

Microsoft received some more love and affection this week, with positive data about the Windows 7 beta and Windows-based netbooks hitting the newswire.

But is this affection for Windows real love or convenient love? Little bit of both, I’d say. It helps that Microsoft is kicking butt in the marketing department, reminding consumers how much they love their affordable Windows PCs. Consumers are returning the favor by buying more PCs and netbooks. But this is more love of a heavier wallet than love of Windows. Notice that those “Laptop Hunter” TV ads with Lauren and Giampaolo don’t mention the Windows operating system? They really should.

Anyway, the netbook news. Research firm NPD reported that Windows is now running on a whopping 96 percent of netbooks in the United States. The previous number that had been kicking around was 90 percent to Linux’s 10 percent. So we are to assume Linux is now down to 4 percent on netbooks.

Either way, Windows is crushing Linux here. If only Linux could get a crack marketing team to evangelize to the mainstream that Linux is not bad for you. You will not break out in hives if you use Linux! It’s a shame this isn’t more of a fair fight.

Speaking of marketing muscle, Microsoft marketing rep Brandon LeBlanc twisted the knife in Linux’s chest with a widely-read and lengthy post on the Windows Experience blog about Windows-based netbooks.

Love is also in the air over in Windows 7 beta land. In a recent poll of corporate IT pros and Windows 7 beta testers by research firm ChangeWave, 44 percent of the respondents said they were “very satisfied” with the beta. This compares to the 10 percent of respondents who said the same about Vista in Feb. 2007.

Another part of the survey, which included a poll of 2,000 enterprise users who make purchasing decisions, did not bode well for Vista but showed promise for Windows 7. Over half (53 percent) said that their businesses are going to skip Vista altogether, and instead wait for the arrival of Windows 7. Only 15 percent said that their organizations would proceed with Vista deployments.

I’m sure Microsoft will gladly take bad Vista news as long as it comes with good Windows 7 news. The survey does conceal — intentionally or not — how many enterprises are going to stick with Windows XP for the foreseeable future. That’s a bigger number than Microsoft cares to admit based on how many times Microsoft has extended the Windows XP downgrade deadline.

So it’s been a lovely week for Windows. But to quote the Bee Gees (I’ve always wanted to), “How deep is your love?”

In other words, would you buy a Mac if it was more affordable? The Laptop Hunter TV ads are effectively taking Macs down a notch as overpriced and trendy. But the ad could also be interpreted as consumers settling for Windows PCs because they are cheaper. What’s love got to do with that?

As for the previously mentioned great news about the Windows 7 beta survey data, the always-skeptical Microsoft blogger Joe Wilcox — a damn fine analyzer of survey and revenue data — finds some holes in the survey methods.

On polling only 68 beta testers:

“The sample is too small. Thirty people [44 percent of the total who were “very satisfied”] is too small a number to call anybody really satisfied. For example, what’s the mix of IT professionals to teenagers? The answer could make the finding useless. If I were a Microsoft product manager, channel partner or IT customer, I wouldn’t make any Windows 7 deployment estimates based on 30 ‘very satisfied’ beta testers.”

On the larger finding that 53 percent of 2,000 respondents will “skip Vista”:

“53 percent will skip Vista altogether. Sounds pretty good for Microsoft, right? Wrong. ChangeWave’s question skews the data: “Will your company skip a Vista upgrade altogether to wait for Windows 7, or are you going ahead with a Vista rollout?” You’ve got to frakking be kidding me. You can’t ask a question that way and expect good data. That’s how you end up with 32 percent “other,” as ChangeWave did.”

What do you think? Is Windows truly in a position of dominance or will reality kick in when the netbook market matures and the economy improves? Also, if you’ve beta tested Windows 7, please share your thoughts below.