Microsoft commissioned a Forrester Research study aimed at determining what the enterprise was looking for in a follow-up to the company’s ubiquitous Windows operating system. It then used that report as a starting point to make its case to companies that Windows 7, unlike Windows Vista, is a compelling solution for organizations that are looking to transform their businesses.
There’s just one problem: Microsoft’s sponsored study didn’t make its argument clearly enough.
Citing data Forrester Research compiled on the corporate world’s bloated PC images, decentralization issues, and far too many calls for help on simple solutions, Microsoft tried to make the case that if a company deploys Windows 7 across the network, many of those problems will be mitigated. And over the long-term, Microsoft claims, companies will be able to save money just by deploying Windows 7. Microsoft was so caught up in numbers that the company claimed the enterprise might be able to save up to $54 per PC per year in power savings. It went on to say that the total cost savings of IT labor will be $89 to $160 per PC per year.
That argument might appeal to some that only want to see how much cash Microsoft can save them, but for the vast majority of companies, it probably wasn’t enough. Microsoft’s biggest issue isn’t necessarily selling companies on Windows 7, it’s selling those companies on Microsoft.
Microsoft made far too many promises with Windows Vista that it just couldn’t keep. It promised better security out of the box. It said that the operating system would sport new features that companies would love. It even said that it would be a better operating system than Windows XP. If enterprise adoption is a key indicator of Microsoft’s success at delivering those features, the company failed.
The Right Strategy
Burying companies in numbers isn’t the best way to ensure Windows 7’s success. That might be a nice supplement to more compelling arguments, but as a standalone reason why the enterprise should ditch Windows XP or Windows Vista and move to the company’s new operating system, it probably doesn’t cut it.
Microsoft needs to first rebuild its relationship with corporate customers. To do so, it needs to finally admit defeat on Vista. Instead of trying to cling to its position that Vista really was a fine successor to XP, maybe Microsoft needs to admit that it made some real mistakes. It needs to accept responsibility for making promises that it didn’t keep. And it should make it very clear that it has learned from those same mistakes.
The reality is, eventually most companies will need to update their software from Windows XP to something new. Those XP computers are getting old, they’re slowing employees down, and they’re cutting into productivity. In a normal circumstance, most companies would have likely replaced them by now. But due to the issues the enterprise witnessed with Vista, they’re suspect (perhaps rightfully so) of Windows 7. Companies just don’t know what to expect.
And yet, they do know that they can’t escape from the Windows ecosystem. It’s only a matter of time before they buy new Windows-based machines. Microsoft knows that too. But it also wants to have the cash now rather than later. In order to achieve that goal, it needs to allay enterprise fears. The company’s decision to release a free trial of Windows 7 Enterprise Edition is a good start, but now it comes down to old-fashioned PR. It needs to make its case.
Undoubtedly, making that case will be difficult. But Microsoft needs to remember that it’s currently sitting on the product most companies need. It must remind them of the security features Microsoft has built into the operating system to make it more appealing to the business world. It needs to focus its efforts on key features like Windows XP mode, which will allow many companies to enjoy the same experience they do now in a virtual environment. Along those lines, the company needs to reassure the enterprise that all those compatibility problems that plagued Windows XP probably won’t make their way into Windows 7, thanks to that XP mode.
The reality is, Windows 7 is an extremely compelling product that so far, Microsoft hasn’t marketed well enough. It’s not Windows Vista. It’s even better than Windows XP. But by overloading companies with figures, percentages, and other quantifiable metrics that they probably find little use in, Microsoft isn’t adequately making the point that Windows 7 really is an ideal business platform. And the longer it makes that mistake, the longer it will need to wait for Windows XP users to finally make their move to the new operating system.