Microsoft Windows is one of those topics that split audiences. On one side, Microsoft supporters insist that their favorite operating system gets a bad rap and it’s really far more secure than critics say.
They claim that Windows is simply misunderstood and the real proof of its value can be seen in the corporate world, where it easily dominates the competition. Microsoft detractors say Windows is a major security risk. They say Microsoft can’t be trusted with an operating system. And they point to either Linux or Mac OS X as the viable operating system choice.
As heated as that debate may be, it seems Microsoft’s performance over the past few months might be the deciding factor. According to the company, Windows 7 is the “fastest-selling” operating system Microsoft has ever offered. Currently, over 90 million Windows 7 licenses have been sold worldwide. Windows 7’s success is a far cry from the difficulties Microsoft had with Windows Vista. Some even believed that Microsoft couldn’t overcome the damage Vista had done. But it did. And today, Windows 7 is a success.
Let’s take a look at how Microsoft made it happen.
1. Distance from Windows Vista
When Vista started going south on Microsoft and the company knew it had a much better operating system waiting in the wings, it distanced itself from Vista. In interviews, Microsoft executives would support it to some extent, but they would always shift their attention to Windows 7. Even Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer used his platform to promote the future of Windows, rather than the past. It was a smart move. Vista was a major mistake. And Microsoft knew it.
2. It examined Vista‘s troubles
As troublesome as Vista was from a marketing and public relations perspective, Microsoft used it to its advantage. The company examined the problems folks had with the operating system and devised improvements for Windows 7 that would address those problems. For example, compatibility and resource-intensiveness proved to be huge issues for Vista. Neither of those problems affect Windows 7.
3. The netbook market helped
The netbook market was arguably one of the main reasons why Microsoft was able to maintain a somewhat amicable rapport with consumers and the enterprise. As netbooks grew in popularity, Microsoft made Windows XP, rather than Vista, the centerpiece of its netbook strategy. Doing so, it was able to ease customers back into the Windows world and make them enjoy the experience of using a Microsoft operating system again. Without netbooks to distract customers from Vista on the desktop, Microsoft might have been in more trouble.
4. It communicated with the enterprise
When Microsoft was preparing for Windows 7’s release, the company did something it didn’t do with Vista: It played nice with the enterprise. Realizing that the corporate world had some doubts, Microsoft offered the Enterprise edition of its operating system to companies to try it out before they engaged in a full-scale deployment. It worked. The enterprise came around, saw the value of Windows 7 and, as current sales figures have shown, are starting to adopt Microsoft’s latest OS.
Winning Over Vendors, Enterprise Users
5. It worked with vendors
When Vista was on store shelves, major vendors, including Dell and Hewlett-Packard, offered downgrade rights to customers who opted for XP rather than the new OS. For a while, there was a cold war of sorts between Microsoft and vendors. With Windows 7, Microsoft repaired those strained relationships. The company worked with vendors to ensure that their needs were met and reassured companies that Windows 7 wouldn’t repeat Vista’s mistakes. For the first time in a while, Microsoft recognized the importance of major vendors.
6. Mac OS X’s influence
A main reason why Windows 7 is so successful today is Mac OS X. Although Microsoft probably wouldn’t admit it, some of the company’s inspiration came from Apple’s operating system. Some of the graphics are similar. The new taskbar reflects the functionality of Mac OS X’s Dock. Some have criticized Microsoft for that, but in the end, it was a smart move. Mac OS X is well-liked. Why not consider it when designing a new OS?
7. Windows XP Mode
Windows XP Mode is extremely important to the success of Windows 7. One of the main problems enterprise customers had with Vista was incompatibility. More often than not, company programs and peripherals didn’t work with the software. That severely damaged Vista sales. In an attempt to address that issue, Microsoft came up with Windows 7’s Windows XP Mode. It worked. Right now practically any software package or peripheral dating back a decade works with Windows 7. That alone might be enough to convince some companies to deploy it within their operations.
8. The improved taskbar
Windows 7’s improved taskbar can’t be underestimated. The new feature makes it extremely easy for users to find programs and get to the desired window as quickly as possible. At first, it was criticized by Windows users who wanted the “old” Windows style. But after they started using the taskbar, they saw what all the fuss was about. Windows 7’s taskbar makes Mac OS X’s Dock look ancient. And it’s a major selling point for Windows users.
9. Security mattered
For years, Microsoft has been forced to deal with security issues. The company has even made improvements from time to time. But when Vista hit store shelves, it was as if the company forgot about security for a time. And users noticed. Microsoft remembered the importance of security again with Windows 7. The new operating system includes Microsoft’s Security Essentials suite, improved menus to make it easier for users to find all security-related features and new encryption tools to help consumers and the enterprise preserve sensitive information. Windows 7 certainly isn’t perfect, but it’s a big step up from Vista.
10. The marketing was spot-on
Microsoft has been criticized in the past for delivering suspect advertising campaigns. But for the most part, the way it marketed Windows 7 was outstanding. The company clearly defined what Windows 7 is all about. Microsoft used some of Apple’s marketing against it. And Microsoft effectively communicated to customers why they would want to use a Windows 7 PC over any other. We can’t discount the importance of marketing. For once, Microsoft did it right. And the sales figures reflect that.