A major product transition is an opportunity for technology suppliers to send a message to partners and the installed base of users. It can be something on the order of "we care" to something less than warm and cuddly. And then theres Vista.
While Microsofts approach to the 2007 launch of Windows Vista is only now coming into focus, it looks as if the Vista experience will stand in sharp contrast to the way Apple pitched the Mac community on its OS X transition.
On August 29, Amazon.com began taking preorders for Vista, with a similar pricing structure to that of Windows XP.
The prices range from the $199 Home Basic version to the $399 Vista Ultimate. Of course, theres quite a list of SKUs and different prices for upgrades.
Based on the response to a recent column on Vistas hardware requirements and performance, it looks as if many readers will be taking a wait-and-see attitude to the upgrade. Most didnt see much value in moving from Windows XP.
Even resellers expressed concerns over the upgrade situation for hardware. And this was before the Windows SKUs and prices were revealed.
"The cost of these systems that will run this Vista is going to be out of reach for most consumers," wrote Greg Hartman, a Wisconsin-based VAR.
"My primary business comes from the average home user and I know the price tag will be out of reach for them. Besides, why does the average user need such a machine?"
"Honestly, I cant believe corporate America will be able to afford all the upgrades that will make this operating system run. Why cant [Microsoft] just finish making XP a better system?" he concluded.
However, on January 30, or some date in the first quarter of 2007, a new PC desktop or notebook will come with Windows Vista, whether the customer wants it or not. Enterprise customers will still be able to get XP preinstalled.
However, most small business users and of course, consumers, will be migrated by fiat. These are the very customers who have forgotten (or never understood, more like it) the terms of license for the OS on their machines.
Worse, this group believes they will be able to pop in the install discs for XP on their new machine and everything will be as it was. Not.
So, how is the Vista situation different than the migration of Mac users to Mac OS X?
The first numbered version of Mac OS X was released on March 24, 2001. It cost $129. By the way, thats still the price today.
Called Cheetah, the Mac OS X v.10.0 version was initially available only as a shrink-wrap retail package. A couple of months later, it shipped on a Macintosh.
There were beefs with the initial release, such as occasional slowness on some machines (a not-so-Cheetah-ish behavior), a difficult printing experience, and other major and minor troubles, depending on ones workflow. And it sported a different interface than the traditional Mac OS, which had been refined for years and to which users were accustomed.
Resellers told me at the time that they were steering customers away from Cheetah—partially because they themselves were inexperienced with the new OS and worried about providing support, but also because there were many important applications that had no OS X-native version, such as Microsoft Word and the major content-creation platform apps.
However, note that Mac OS X was a secondary operating system on Apple hardware. The default boot was into Mac OS 9.1.