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Windows 7 Social Media Edition

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The most surprising thing about today’s Windows 7 pricing announcement isn’t the pricing, but how Microsoft directly delivered news about it. While Microsoft issued a press release, the most substantive information comes from the Windows Blog, which the release links to. For anyone still clinging to the fantasy that there is some magical separation between Microsoft public relations teams and its bloggers, wake up! There really is none.

Perhaps there shouldn’t be, and that should concern Microsoft’s outside public relations agencies and what their future role will be. People naturally are more interested in other people and what they have to say. Surely a blogger, an identifiable human being, with posted picture and personality, is more believable and memorable than a germane press release.

It’s sensible that Microsoft employees working on products or with product groups should be part of the messaging and marketing early on in the process. I’ve criticized Microsoft for using some blogs for the stealth PR; I still bristle about it. But I also must realistically acknowledge stunning changes in just the last 12 months, with regards to information dissemination and the disruptive role new, or fairly new, social networking services play.

Social media is transforming how news is gathered and conveyed. People want to read stuff from real people. Yesterday, Lous Gray asked, “Are authors or publications impacting how you consume news?” It’s the right question to ask and, yes, the times they are changing—and rapidly. Even the blogosphere is rapidly becoming old fashion—out of vogue, if you prefer.

Yesterday, Charles Arthur asserted that “the long tail of blogging is dying.” He writes:

Where is everybody? Anecdotally and experimentally, they’ve all gone to Facebook, and especially Twitter. At least with Twitter, one can search for comments via backtweets.com—though it’s still quite rare for people to make a comment on a piece in a tweet; more usually it’s a ‘retweet,’ echoing the headline. The New York Times also noticed this trend, with a piece on 9 June about “Blogs Falling In An Empty Forest“, which pointed to Technorati’s 2008 survey of the state of the blogosphere, which found that only 7.4m out of the 133m blogs it tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. As the New York Times put it, ‘that translates to 95% of blogs being essentially abandoned.’

Confession: Where did I find the blogs about blogs by Charles and Louis? Twitter, of course. Charles is right, people are flocking to Facebook, which is starting to become a gravity well pulling people from other online services. Facebook is the new Windows, an operating system in the clouds. In a July 2007 post, at Microsoft Watch, I called Facebook “an operating system-like platform in the clouds.”

I’m on record as calling Windows 7 the last major release of the operating system. Even if there is a Windows 8, with similar heritage, Facebook and the gravity well of other cloud services will pull more and more people away. The desktop operating system is becoming irrelevant.

Windows 7: The Price Is Right?
The question of desktop operating system relevance brings me to the broader topic: Windows 7 pricing and the short-term promotion running from tomorrow through July 11. Apple has lowered the perceived cost for an operating system by shockingly aggressive Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) pricing. Apple plans to release the software in September for $29 or $49 as a five-user Family Pack. Only Leopard users qualify for the discounted pricing.

Jumplists easily expose recent files of activities

Jumplists easily expose recent files or activities

Apple’s brand is strong and so is the perceived value of its operating system. Snow Leopard will still be valuable, just for lots less money. It’s a smart value play by Apple, which lowered bar beyond what Microsoft could meet with Window 7 pricing:

  • Home Premium: $119.99 upgrade; $199.99 full version
  • Professional: $199.99 upgrade; $299.99 full version
  • Ultimate: $219.99 upgrade; $319.99 full version

Many blogs and news sites are reporting big savings over Windows Vista, which is a twisted nuance. From Brandon LeBlanc’s Windows Blog post:

For Windows 7, we are reducing the price on our most popular retail product for customers, the Home Premium Upgrade, by approximately 10% (depending on the market)…This means that Windows 7 Home Premium full retail product is $40.00 less than Windows Vista Home Premium today.

I don’t see real savings, for a two primary reasons:

  • Windows Vista Home Premium added a new pricing SKU, effectively raising the operating system’s price compared to XP.
  • In most markets, Windows 7 Home Basic will not be available, eliminating the lower cost—and much inferior—alternative to Home Premium.

Forgive my not cooing over Microsoft’s lowering pricing claims. By exact comparison, Microsoft can make them. For all practical purposes, there is no big bargain for Home Premium buyers.

Fifty Bucks Is a Marketing Bargain
That said, Microsoft has got a deal, which would be a steal if not for Apple pricing Snow Leopard so damn low. From tomorrow through July 11, Microsoft and its retail partners will offer Windows 7 Home Premium and Professional version upgrades steeply discounted—that’s $49.99 and $99.99, respectively.

I’ve been trying to make sense of the promotion, and its timing. I could see Microsoft offering a pre-order deal from, say, June 15-30, which would give nice Windows retail sales uplift to its fiscal year, which ends next week. That’s assuming Microsoft could recognize the revenue, which it probably can’t when taking money for undelivered goods.

So, I’ll rationalize the pre-order offer the way I would, from a marketing perspective—which, unfortunately, probably isn’t how Microsoft will do it. Right now, based on public Microsoft statements and leaks, Microsoft is targeting July 13 as Windows 7 release to manufacturing. That’s two days after the pre-order sale ends. (Note: The June 26-July 11 pre-order sale is for United States. Dates vary in other countries.)

Aero Snap makes organizing windows easier

Aero Snap makes organizing windows easier

A smart Microsoft would let loyal customers who preordered get early access to Windows 7 long before the official October 22nd launch date. I would let them download Windows 7 starting July 14, with activation code, and send physical media later on. It’s bad business, not a way to generate good feeling about Microsoft or the Windows brand, to make loyal pre-order customers to wait three months to get the software.

Providing early access fits in with Microsoft using a blog to dish out the Windows 7 pricing details and with ongoing online social trends. Sure, MSDN and TechNet subscribers and bunchs of official bloggers and reviewers will get the code as soon as it RTMs and offer reaction in blogs and news stories. But the real, early marketing benefit could come from people who paid for Windows 7 and wrote reviews on sites like Amazon or offered reaction on Facebook and Twitter.

These people can generate genuine Windows 7 buzz. The best Windows 7 marketer will be that early adopter who has the software before any of his or her friends, family, colleagues or neighbors. By the way, the buzz would preempt Snow Leopard’s September launch.

Microsoft also would get one more Windows 7 shakedown before official release. The kind of people shopping for Windows 7 bargains won’t necessarily be the same folks that downloaded the release candidate. While there is overlap, these are still two fairly distinct groups of early adopters. Last-minute problems with applications or software drivers would likely come out.

I’ll close with two questions: Is fifty bucks low enough price for you to buy Windows 7 Home Premium? Are you disappointed there is no low-cost, pre-order option for Windows 7 Ultimate?

28 Comments

  1. Lets resolve this quick and easy:

    Snow Leopard is a Service Pack for Leopard released in October 2007. Apple realizes that Leopard was buggy out the gate. Deleting data moved between partitions in the GA and host of updates since have caused many Mac users frustrations and many pin wheel indicators on their MacBook Pro’s.

    Windows 7 is a major upgrade that is built on Vista and ensures that the investments customers have made in that version is carried forward. In addition to that, users are getting a wealth of the new features and functionality. Performance, better interaction with the desktop, power management and free set of software and services through Windows Live Essentials.

    Let me quote some information from the Windows Team blog:

    “This includes fun new features such as HomeGroup, Device Stage, Aero Shake, Snap, Peek, Jump Lists and our completely redesigned Windows Taskbar (one of my favorite new features in Windows 7 today). These new features make your PC simpler and much easier to use. ”

    Windows 7 is cheaper, because PC’s are already cheaper than a Mac and are way more compatible.

  2. Yes but Windows apps and support are rubbish and Leopard was well-received while Vista was a mess. This Vista bug fix and Rolls Royce pricing for Windows 7 will not help Microsoft at all. 🙁

  3. My main gripe is the lack of a family pack, and the high cost of entry on non-upgrade versions. Microsoft should be targeting both groups, as home PC builders and large families tech savvy enough to upgrade are prime targets for the Linux crowd. It would be a damn shame to see these groups getting away.

    Furthermore, a family pack is overdue. If I could upgrade all the computers in my house on the cheap, I would be more inclined to upgrade. In that case however, I’m hoping that upgrades count for XP, even if the update has to be a clean install.

  4. Andre, Andre, Andre…

    Leopard was buggy, but Vista was a mistake, on several levels.

    Snow Leopard and Windows 7 are both evolutions of their predecessors, both clean up problems. And both are far more than service packs. If you think that updating the kernel and drivers from 32-bit to 64-bit is a service pack, I can’t help you.

    You say Windows 7 will feature, “Performance, better interaction with the desktop, power management”. I predict Snow Leopard will surpass Windows 7 on all three counts. Then you point to the “free set of software and services through Windows Live Essentials”. You mean the stuff that used to come pre-installed, but now users will have to download? Hardware vendors will do their customers a great service to pre-load this software. And it will save them many a support call. So now let’s compare Windows Live Essentials to iWorks and iLife. No, that’s been done elsewhere, it’s not even close.

    Apple will have a field day with the pricing Microsoft announced today. You are mixing the cost of the computer with the cost of the software. $29 for Snow Leopard is a killer for Microsoft. I’m still running Tiger, so I’ll pay $169 for Snow Leopard, iWorks and iLife. I’ll gladly pay that, it’s still cheaper than Windows 7.

    We are both blowing smoke right now. What matters is the public perception once these products are released to the general public. Windows 7 has only been seen by the loyal base of Microsoft users, and Snow Leopard has only been seen by people who are obligated to keep their mouth shut. Come fall, this next chapter in the history of computing will unfold. I’m looking forward to it.

    So here’s my prediction. Windows 7 will be the best OS Microsoft has ever released. Duh! Snow Leopard will trump Windows 7 in performance, interface consistency and user satisfaction. And the debate will continue.

  5. I do think Microsoft is missing an opportunity here to offer a family pack upgrade. I don’t think they will lose anything to Apple, but I do think it’s possible that they may lose a few XP users to Linux.

    Then again, if we are talking 1 or 2 % loss and the migration happens anyway, it solidifies the notion in my mind that the vast majority are happy with the OS, the price, and what it will provide for them while the Windows money machine keeps right on rolling.

    Let’s face it, they aren’t in business to be giving away software that hundreds of people have been getting paid to create for 3 years!

  6. Ahhh… nuts…

    The pricing is fine and it’s a solid product that will sell well.

    Yes, Windows 7 will sell more upgrade licenses than Vista did – to Vista customers on reletively new hardware.

    Most others will get the new Windows with a new computer purchase, or as their companies roll it out with new hardware in coming years.

    It won’t sell especially well and neither will computers in general; not for many years to come. It will be more than a decade before the global economy will see substantive growth, as it comes to terms with the spending its populations have and continue to demand. Comfort items, like the iPhone, and 3/4G capable netbooks will sell well – especially as people become ever inwardly focused and convinced the broader world really does care about what they to say… EEEEE, I meant Tweet, or post as I just have. The reality is that no one really gives a rip about Windows pricing, or Windows PC’s. Not any longer. They care about what “they think” others think. about. them. thinking. about. whatever.

    That will change when the Internet changes and “free” content, isn’t, or all of us with a few bucks get sick of funding the rest who appear to be less willing to gut it out and earn their own way. It’s a nasty cycle I have seen play out three times now. Six generations – two that busted a hump and four that thought everyone else cared about what they “thought” – they didn’t and don’t.

  7. billybob says on June 26, 2009

    For anyone still clinging to the fantasy that there is some magical separation between Microsoft public relations teams and Andre De Costa, wake up! There really is none.

  8. His comments are predictably one dimensional, but you really think he says these things because he’s part of a PR machine, and not because he believes them?

    I have received a number of offers for free product licences for development tools, on the basis of my blog (not from Microsoft, I might add). Usually the offer has something about writting a blog post or two about the product. I’ve never taken up any of the offers, because I don’t like owing anything to anybody. It does make me wonder just how much of this goes on, though.

  9. I’m asking the same question, Nick. I’ve started to get offers like this, too. The most striking is offer for cash, undisclosed amount, which I’ve not accepted.

    I might accept sponsor(s) for the site, which would be public arrangement(s). In fact, I see it as better alternative to advertising, depending on sponsor(s).

    Bottom line: Conflict of interest is everywhere, whether blogs or traditional news sites. The challenge is how to limit it. Every blogger working for a news sites that pays by the click has conflict of interest, for example.

    Which is worse? Shameless product plugs or shameless stories (that might just be factual incorrect) to drive clicks?

  10. Microsoft’s limited upgrade discounts are its answer to the Family Pack. I wouldn’t say the best option, but something. Most US households have two PCs, some three. So, right now, for less than the price of Windows 7 Home Premium Upgrade, a household could purchase the software for two PCs.

    Actually, this kind of messaging should have been in Microsoft’s marketing for the deal: Your family can get two for less than the price of one.

  11. billybob says on June 26, 2009

    I personally do not care about free hardware. What really freaks me out is the way he talks like he is part of the machine.

    I like Apple products but I don’t say things like “Snow Leopard secures your investment in Leopard and lets you enjoy your digital lifestyle like never before”. It is just a weird way of talking that is not natural. It is like a robot that looks uncannily human.

    Objective blogging is different to mindless repetition of company propaganda.

  12. Hey DeCosta, how’s that cool aid taste? Seriously, are you daft? Windows 7 is nothing more than a service pack for the failure that was Vista, you’re a bit confused.

    Vista was a NIGHTMARE and no amount of Microspin can change that. Windows 7 is what people wanted Vista to be, plain and simple. And Snow Leopard includes major architectural changes, so to suggest otherwise just exposes you for the complete shill that you appear to be.

  13. Who’s calling who a shill? Andre is a fan. Good for him.

    And you’re not a Mac fan, Mr. anonymous commenter? At least Andre is very much upfront who he is, while you take potshots from behind a veil of secrecy.

    Have YOU used Windows 7? If not, you have no legitimacy attacking Andre for his enthusiasm.

    Windows 7 is NOT a Vista service pack. Microsoft has made some real improvements around the user interface, for example. I give credit where it’s deserved, and NOBODY can accuse me of being a shill. Just read my two-part weekend post.

    There are lots of ways to interpret Snow Leopard and Windows 7 pricing. Another commenter pointed out the use of “Snow” insinuates that Mac OS X 10.6 is Leopard only little better. It’s not major innovation, from that perspective, which perhaps is reflected in Apple’s $29 pricing.

    I have high hopes for Snow Leopard, and I commend your enthusiasm about it. But that doesn’t excuse you from cowardly hiding your identity to attack Andre. You wanna fight? You lob at me instead, and you out yourself first. Or I will.

  14. And let’s be upfront about Windows 7, it would be called Vista 2 had Vista not had such a terrible rep.

    And I have used it. Windows 7 looks nice, but Microsoft and the OEM’s could screw up the whole success of it. Right now the pricing looks silly at best and who knows how it will handle updates? Microsoft keeps em coming and coming. Will it slow Windows 7 to a crawl?

  15. billybob says on June 26, 2009

    The difference as far as I am concerned is that I will have to buy Windows 7 at $100 to get my Vista laptop wifi working and to make the OS usable whereas Leopard is working fine and a $29 upgrade will make everything faster. Will a Service pack fix all the issues with Vista and how would that affect upgrades to 7? If there is no Vista service pack then is 7 THE Vista service pack?

    From a user perspective Snow Leopard is a minor update but from a developer perspective it is a major one – Windows 7 is probably the opposite. Lets remember that nobody has really seen Snow Leopard yet (not anyone that can tell us anyway).

  16. What wifi problems are you having Billybob?

    I do think the things in 7 that really set it apart from a service pack (I’m thinking things like multi-touch support), are not exactly things that most people are going to immediately benefit from.

    Having used Windows 7 for a while now, I would say that the UI tweaks I was initially sceptical of, turn out to be worth the $49 pre-order upgrade cost alone. $399 for Window 7 Ultimate is barking mad. I actually need the langauge packs it includes, but only for development, and my dev machine is covered by a MSDN Pro licence.

    Finally, there is a surprising amount of new stuff for developers in Windows 7 – things that spring to mind are multi-touch support, new shell integration features (like jump lists), DirectX 11 (which includes Compute Shaders), and the ribbon control. There is also the “sensor and location platform” – again something that seems to need hardware to be useful.

    Its also worth noting that a lot of developer stuff on Windows (for example .Net) is shipped out-of-band in relation to the OS, for free. If I want to use the parallel extensions in .Net, I don’t have to worry what version of the OS my customers are using. If I wrote against Grand Central in Snow Leopard, I assume I need to be concerned about customers who have not upgrade from Leopard?

  17. People I know who have built their own PC have, without exception, been able to purchase an OEM editon of Windows when then bought some hardware. I’ve heard of component resellers shipping an OEM copy in conjunction with as little as a €1 fan-grill.

    Other than DIYers and Mac owners (who can affored it ;-)), who else buys retails boxed copies of Windows?

  18. billybob says on June 27, 2009

    I cannot remember the wifi problems, I think I entered the “Windows rage” and I blocked out some of the experience. I think it could not see the access point, or it saw it but then just did not connect, either with a useless message or it pretended to connect but didn’t.

    In the end I just installed Ubuntu and when I need Vista I just connect a cable and sit in the corner under the desk. I remember hearing later that Vista wifi problems are very common. I am not stupid and I did try for more than 5 minutes.

    When I have to spend my money on fixing these problems, it is a little hard to swallow. All of the features you mention are no use to me, jump lists are OK but they are not worth all the hassle and money of upgrading. Essentially I would be paying to fix Vista bugs which is what should be a service pack.

    Grand Central is probably Snow Leopard only, but developers can work around it if they want to support Leopard too (it is just an extra object that they send jobs to). Apple has a different attitude here though, and I agree with it. We shouldn’t hold back progress just so that everyone can run every new application going. Grand Central and Open CL are only going to be used on high-end applications so if you cannot afford $29 to upgrade then you cannot afford to use that application.

    Someone might write a killer app using Grand Central or Open CL, and that would then drive upgrades for Apple which is good for them. A much larger percentage of Apple users upgrade or are prepared to upgrade for a special app. Maybe the problem with Windows is that they give up too much for backwards compatibility?

    That just leaves the taskbar which really baffles me. What is the middle part of the taskbar for and why is it always blank? Why did they hide the system tray icons when they have at least 6 ” of room to grow into? Is it because 3rd party icons are ugly?

    Oh, and Windows 7 seems to undo all of the security work that they did in Vista. There is no user separation and UAC is only designed to annoy (even Microsoft says that). No part of OSX is designed specifically to annoy me so much that I complain to the developers of a bad application.

  19. Ultimately, if it doesnt work for you, then it doesnt work. I have had very few issue with NT-derived OS’s in general, and they work for me. I’ve been in this game for 25 years, so I’ve seen my share of other approachs (though oddly, not too much Apple). However, I can understand the frustration of people wanting something other than Windows – its dominance does impact even those who don’t want to use it.

    Anyway, a couple of specifics:

    With the taskbar in Windows 7, they essentially merged the main area and the Quick Launch menu together. You can pin any app to the taskbar (very easily – 2 clicks), and it stays there until you unpin it, running or not. if you want to fill up your taskbar with all you apps, you can.

    The status icons are also “pin-able”, so you can choose which are permantently visible. You can also choose to make them visible only when they notify, or just hide them (on an individual basis) and they are anyway just a click away. There is even a check box just for you “Always show all icons and notifications on the taskbar” 😉

    You said “There is no user separation and UAC is only designed to annoy”

    Perhaps we are talking at cross-purposes, but have run XP, Vista and XP with two account – one admin, one not. I log in with a non-admin account. On XP this was a pain. One Vista and XP, I just get prompted for an admin password, and get evalated for that operation. I’ve never understood the bitching and moaning about UAC – for me its always been a big convenience.

    Of course I’d rather be paying $29 to upgrade – but Microsoft has probably got the price right, ‘cos I wont flinch at upgrading to WIn 7 for $49.

  20. You tell ’em Joe!

    I don’t disagree with what M$ Truth Teller said, but I applaud your efforts to maintain some civility. Your name’s on the website, you can do what you want. Perhaps viewer comments should be considered an important voice in this social edition discussion.

    I think comments can add value to what you do and give you a better overall product. They can also be a disaster. Take a look at cnet or zdnet sometime. You have a knowledgeable base of readers. I think we are a resource you can tap into, if you can figure out how to corral us.

    This fall will be the culmination of a tremendous effort on the part of Apple and Microsoft to deliver their best operating systems to date. Linux is a compelling alternative that should also be part of the discussion. I hope you can find a way to make yourself an important part of the discussion. I’ll be watching, and participating.

  21. billybob says on June 27, 2009

    You would need about 30 applications pinned to make use of the taskbar on a widescreen monitor. To me it just looks like something that was rushed at last minute to make 7 look different and to be more like OSX, but it does not really work – partly because the defaults are wrong. I know how it all works and what you can do, and I still think it is poor design.

    It is not the frustration of wanting something other than Windows, it is about the frustration of running Windows. Linux and Mac work perfectly with the wireless and are not slow with lots of popups. Ubuntu 9.04 deserves a special mention at the slick installation of drivers and connection to the wireless.

    My problem with UAC is not really the annoying prompts, it is more that you have annoying prompts and the system is still not secure. I am not sure if it is different with Vista but 7 allows any program to execute code as Administrator without prompting, that is not secure so UAC is just an annoyance tool. Knowing that annoys me.

  22. JohnJ says on June 27, 2009

    >Vista was a NIGHTMARE

    I use Vista SP1 Preinstalled every single day, and it works just fine.

    Vista’s most vocal critics are people who don’t use it, and don’t know anything about it.

  23. JohnJ says on June 27, 2009

    >Windows 7: The Price Is Right?

    Right now, Windows 7 upgrades are Number 1 (Home Premium), Number 2 (Professional) and Number 7 (Ultimate) on the Amazon.com “Bestsellers in Software” list.

  24. whatever says on June 27, 2009

    I agree the Windows 7 task bar is much improved from before, but lowering the bar over the years, only to jump over it effortlessly is not something i generally applaud so why should i do so now…

    The quicklaunch was a mess, having it’s .lnk’s inexplicably stored in Internet Explorer’s application data folder.

    The little hide-unhide system tray that collapses before you get a chance to hit one of it’s systray icons.

    The language bar which on occasion seems to just replicate to the point where you have 8 empty divider walls and 2cm of space for running apps.

    Grouping running applications together as you run out of room.

    The whole locking and unlocking and manually dragging dividers of quicklaunch, apps, ect around is a joke.

    What amazes me is that you can have so many annoying UI issues crammed into a 2cm bar onscreen.

    This thing of lowering the bar so much with xp and Vista, then clearing it with Windows 7, and then getting enthusiastic applause from the usual suspects just galls me.

  25. Hi all. I wondered where all the “old crew” from MS-Watch went. Hi to Billybob et al, its almost like being back on Microsoft-Watch.

    Joe, let me quote you: “Who’s calling who a shill? Andre is a fan. Good for him.”

    Yes, lets look at one of this “fans” recent comments on Twitter (screen dump was taken incase it “accidently gets deleted”

    “Looking at some family pics of MJ, I can see he was a PC user, too bad he didn’t live to see Windows 7”

    Joe, why not cast your eye over to the comments he left when you announced that you were being let go from your job.

    The Mr Dee connection? I’ve screendumps of identical posts between Andre’s twitter and a poster called Mr DEE over on another site.

    This is all academic, since its off topic. What I will say is this.. Remember the pre-Vista hype? wasn’t it very much the same? Your experience of gifts surely shows that in regards to proprietary a seamingly innocent and independent opinion needs to be questioned.

    Anyway, I’ll let the conversation continue on topic…

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