When Microsofts top brass admit the company has done a less-than-stellar job of marketing its flagship operating system, somethings got to give.
Exactly what that "thing" will be is tough to pin down right now. Microsoft is weighing a number of options, ranging from new mechanisms to deliver functionality "out of band" before Longhorn ships, to an interim Windows release, a la Windows 95b or Windows 98 Second Edition.
A growing number of developers and customers said they would welcome such an interim release called by some "Shorthorn." Others said they would just be content for Microsoft to simply fix bugs and apply security features and hold off on another full version of Windows until Longhorn is rock-solid.
"Im afraid wed likely pass on Shorthorn unless it really delivered value to us. I just dont see how a little update to XP is going to do that," said Anthony Frausto-Robledo, director of information technology with the Lexington, Mass. architectural firm of Morehouse MacDonald & Associates Inc.
Regardless of which of the so-called "XP Reloaded" options Microsoft selects, the companys Windows client unit has an uphill battle ahead.
Earlier this week at a dinner with Redmond, Wash.-area journalists, Jim Allchin, Microsofts group vice president for software platforms, admitted that Microsoft had failed to do a good job in getting the word out on Windows XPs myriad features.
Allchins criticism comes at a time when Microsoft is still touting Windows XP as "the fastest-selling operating system ever."
Between October 2001, when it launched XP, and September 2003, Microsoft said it sold more than 130 million copies of Windows via retail and preloaded on new PCs. However, this figure does not include the copies of XP that enterprise customers purchased as part of their volume-license agreements.
Still, Microsoft needs to find ways to maintain interest in the three-year-old product until it delivers its next major Windows client release, Longhorn, which isnt expected until 2006 or perhaps later. And it needs to do so in a time when IT spending still remains depressed.
Last summer, at the companys annual financial analyst meeting in July, Allchin said he planned to keep the XP fires burning in a few key ways:
- Devise ways to convert the 350 million PCs running Windows NT and other Win9X versions of Windows to Windows XP;
- Foster new "breakthrough" form factors that will ignite both consumer and business interest in Windows XP and its variants (such as Windows XP Media Center and Windows XP Tablet Edition);
- Create strategies to convince consumers they should buy multiple PCs for their households;
- And finally, tout the "value proposition" of deploying Windows XP and Office XP together. However, based on Allchins assessment this week it appears that Microsoft decided over the past six months that these strategies didnt go far enough.