Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Why does Windows XP refuse to go away?

Dear Microsoft, time and again, you have attempted to convince Windows XP customers like me to upgrade to the latest version of Windows and we have refused to upgrade. It’s been what: 5 ½ years ever since Windows Vista debuted that this issue exists and Microsoft keeps wondering why we don’t upgrade. Just in case, Microsoft, if you are waiting for us to upgrade before support ends, get a clue, please!! Ever wonder why Windows XP is your most successful product ever? It is because the usability of the Windows XP platform (and Office 2003 as well for that matter) was unmatched. There are no plans to upgrade for many users because the newer product does not serve our needs, it does not include many features that Windows XP has and we use them, we depend on them for our day-to-day computing activities. For example, this issue which has remained unfixed since 2006: Compulsory automatic sorting of all items in Explorer. Without problems like these ever getting fixed, there is no question ever of upgrading from Windows XP. Do you still want to be so stubborn and arrogant that you refuse to even acknowledge these issues and ignore them permanently? Then let me remind you, customer is king, it’s never the other way round. You will lose your Windows XP customers permanently.

If Microsoft ever gets into a situation (that I foresee coming) where XP users just won't upgrade to a newer version of Windows such as Windows 7 or Windows 8, kindly work with us to understand why we won’t upgrade and fix the “by design” issues of your products. There are certain issues, you can’t ignore them, not just a handful of problems but hundreds of “by design” problems. I am not talking about some lame, antiquated or obsolete features, I am talking about real useful features which Microsoft just removed. Nothing that will prevent the typical end user from upgrading but most definitely deal breakers for advanced users. Acknowledgement is the first step towards fixing a problem. In fact, Jim Allchin, whom I recently privately contacted via Facebook personally acknowledged that he understands the issues I am facing and he gets them but unfortunately, with him, no longer at Microsoft, he has no influence whatsoever.

The market share of Windows XP as Net Applications reports has remained more or less constant for the past 6 months (Nov.2011 to April 2012). You certainly don’t want to lose half of your Windows customers permanently, do you? End of support won’t be the end of the world for Windows XP users. We will always find a way to run it – get supported hardware, using high performance virtualization like VMware Workstation Extreme which also virtualized graphics, and secure it properly by half a dozens ways, such as by using good anti-malware, running as standard user and using SuRun to elevate, lock down the system using Software Restriction Policies or use edge network security products. It’s not as if we don’t want to upgrade, it’s because Microsoft hates us so much that they won’t change the design of their product, not even fix these blocking issues around our feedback to get us to upgrade. There is still time. And it looks like you really want us to upgrade. Why not, for once, listen to us? You can work with me over email to resolve longstanding issues or you can invite me over to Redmond to get a real understanding of how you can maximize your product sales by caring about your own customers. Surely, if you can get me to upgrade, I bet you can get all of your XP customers to upgrade too. Once upon a time, I used to be one of the biggest Windows enthusiasts. I swore by Microsoft products and I thought their software was the best thing that happened not just to computers, but to every person for the value its offers in life for work and entertainment. Not any more because you “simplified” it so much that it became useless to power users like me.
Windows 7 is only slightly improved than Windows Vista but is not a good enough replacement for Windows XP because the issues Windows Vista introduced were never all fixed, they were just ignored and classified as "by design", plus Windows 7 introduced problems of its own. Why Windows 7 succeeded when Windows Vista failed has many reasons. Windows 7 is slightly faster than Windows Vista, but PC hardware was a lot faster in October 2009 than in January 2007, thus Windows 7 came across as a far better performer, when in reality the most improvement lies in the hardware. Furthermore, the drivers for Windows were mature by then, the whole ecosystem had basically caught up. The negativity around Windows Vista was gone because of clever marketing. That doesn't mean all of the post-XP issues were resolved and it suddenly became a good enough product to replace the venerable Windows XP. No, it isn’t because those issues aren’t fixed at all. Still, all the hard work and innovation post-XP has been done by Jim Allchin and his team. Steven Sinofsky's team has just added some bug fixes to it, streamlined it and improved the UI slightly (and made it worse in just as many cases e.g. the search UI). They got way too much accolades for this.
Windows XP will be truly and completely gone only when Microsoft provides a newer product that does everything it did and more. Until then, Microsoft can keep churning out new incomplete OSes and remain in complete denial they have removed any essential features. Microsoft will keep living in their bubble that there are zero issues with Windows after XP, but the users who need XP features are not going to swap what they absolutely need for something new that makes them lose what they already had.

Just think if all the clock and watch manufacturers in the world removed the minute and second hands from the dials and said "We simplified and re-imagined it for you to give enhanced performance and higher battery life". That's what's happening with Microsoft.

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