John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Vista “Wow” Apparently Did Not Start “Now”


I am not sure how the company lost sight of what matters to our customers (both business and home) the most, but in my view we lost our way. I think our teams lost sight of what bug-free means, what resilience means, what full scenarios mean, what security means, what performance means, how important current applications are, and really understanding what the most important problems [our] customers face are. I see lots of random features and some great vision, but that doesn’t translate into great products.

“I would buy a Mac today if I was not working at Microsoft.”

Longtime Windows development chief Jim Allchin, Jan. 7, 2004

Allchin wrote that message four years ago, and when it was made public as part of one of Microsoft’s (MSFT) ongoing lawsuits, he claimed he’d written it to be purposefully dramatic. And perhaps that was the case.

Still, it’s hard not to look at the middling, unenthusiastic reviews given the company’s long-delayed Windows Vista OS and think that maybe he was just being honest. Hard, too, not to look at the company’s unexpected (some feel unprecedented) decision to slash the retail price of Vista to spur sales–and conclude that maybe a lot of consumers feel the same way.

Yesterday, Microsoft announced plans to lower OS’s retail price in advance of if its first major update, Service Pack 1 (SP1). The price cuts vary by market, but in general will range from 20% to 40%. In the states, for example, the price of Vista Ultimate will drop to $219 from $299, Vista Home Premium to $129, from $159–substantial cuts, and ones Microsoft hopes will broaden Vista’s appeal.

“Windows Vista has been on the market for more than a year now, with more than 100 million licenses sold in its first year,” Windows consumer marketing Vice President Brad Brooks explained. “While this is great progress … we’ve observed market behavior that suggests an opportunity to expand Windows stand-alone sales to other segments of the consumer market. Over the past year, we conducted promotions in several different markets combining various marketing tactics with lower price points on different stand-alone versions of Windows Vista. While the promotions varied region to region, one constant emerged–an increase in demand among consumers that went beyond tech enthusiasts and build-it-yourself types.”

Analysts, while taken aback by the price cut, seemed to think it a savvy one. “I think this is a smart strategic move,” said NPD Group Inc.’s Chris Swenson. “Vista hasn’t hit their initial expectations.” That said, Swenson doubts the price cut will have Vista flying off the shelves. Microsoft “really wants to help spark Vista sales, though I don’t see it taking off like a rocket like the way Office did after its price was cut.”