Microsoft is in the midst of rolling out System 7, the newest generation of Windows operating system. The company is betting much on the success of this system, particularly after the lukewarm reception it received to Vista. What’s more, System 7 is seen as the base of future generations for the software — leaner, more secure, more capable and easier to use.
For enterprise-level organizations, System 7 is everything they could ask for — a bridge between the more functional Windows XP and the system corporations want and need.
For the rest of us, System 7 is a nightmare. Not because it is a bad system. Not because it is a resource pig that will need upwards of 16GB of RAM to run well. But because Microsoft’s marketing departments just aren’t doing their job.
The company that built its reputation on savvy marketing and out-maneuvering competitors would rate no more than a C-minus for its efforts. Sure, the company does a great job of promotion, and has its distribution networks in place and functioning. But marketing is a blend of four elements — product, price, promotion and distribution. If the “mix” of these four elements is wrong, it doesn’t matter how good the product is. And Microsoft has the wrong mix.
Here’s what I mean:
- The product has too many versions. As of release time, there are six different
versions that include Windows 7 Starter, Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7
Professional, Windows 7 Enterprise, and Windows 7 Ultimate. Windows 7 Home
Basic will also be sold, but only to emerging markets. A seventh will be added
for European customers. Even if you can figure out which of these to buy,
nearly all will come in both 32-bit and 64-bit configurations. Awk!
- The Windows product names are alphabet soup. We’ve noted before the
goofy ways in which Microsoft confuses consumers by using the same name for
different products. Explorer, for example, being the name of both your file
system manager and web browser. With Windows, the problem is that they can’t
use a consistent naming scheme. It was Windows 1, 2, 2.1, 3, and finally 3.11.
Then, it leapt to Windows 95 and 98, followed by the incredibly forgettable
Windows ME, then back to years with Windows 2000. And then, the went back
to the alphabet again for Windows NT and XP, followed by the art department
deciding to express themselves and call it Windows Vista. And now, we see
a new naming scheme, Windows 7. Surely there is a better way.
- The product costs too much. Sticking it to your customer base is hardly
a way to build customer loyalty, and by keeping the price of each new system
so high (Windows 7 will carry an upgrade price of more than $200, while the
competitive Mac OSX 10.6 “Snow Leopard” will sport an upgrade
price of $29). All that this pricing strategy has done is to push more consumers,
including small businesses, to software piracy in an effort to keep using
Microsoft products and stay current. This has then forced Microsoft to resort
to increasingly bizarre and draconian efforts to stop piracy that end up punishing
users who have actually paid for their software.
- This pricing strategy cripples product distribution. If Windows 7 follows the standard Microsoft pricing strategy, it will offer the initial product at an astronomical price, and then drop the price over time according to how sales are going, how the product is received, etc. This strategy trains consumers not to use the system when it is first released (surely not what the company intends). In fact, the mantra for Windows operating systems is now to wait until the first service pack is released. Microsoft’s product pricing strategy therefore encourages customers to help drive up the distribution costs by forcing Microsoft to essentially scrap the first generation of its products in order to replace them with new products that incorporate the service packs.