Microsoft Erases Vista Stigma, Suggests Survey

Microsoft's reputation among consumers experienced a lift after the release of Windows 7, according to the newest American Customer Satisfaction Index. While Microsoft's score on the Index dipped in the two years following Windows Vista's release, the company experienced a surge in the last quarter, which the Index's researchers attribute to Windows 7. Since its October 2009 release, Windows 7 has sold more than 90 million licenses, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft saw its reputation among consumers lift after the release of Windows 7, according to the newest American Customer Satisfaction Index released on May 18. Microsoft scored 76 out of a possible 100 for the first quarter of 2010, matching ACSI's industry average for software companies, but also something of a reversal from when Windows Vista drove Microsoft's customer-satisfaction levels sharply downward.

In 2007, the first year of Windows Vista's release, Microsoft's ACSI score dipped from 73 to 70, before edging down to 69 in 2008. The following year, customer satisfaction rose slightly, to 70, but remained well below 2009's industry average of 75.

But the release of Windows 7 changed things, according to the survey's researchers.

"After consumers struggled with its Windows Vista software, Microsoft's release of the Windows 7 upgrade in the fall of 2009 came as a breath of fresh air," reads a May 18 press release issued by ACSI along with the study. "Microsoft has parlayed high volume sales of a better quality product into a big boost in customer satisfaction."

Microsoft's score of 76 in the first quarter of 2010 represents an 8.6 percent increase over the previous year, and a 4.1 percent increase over 2006, the first year that ACSI started measuring the company's customer satisfaction.

ACSI, founded at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business, measures customer satisfaction scores for more than 200 companies in 44 industries, as well as government agencies. The most recent survey data can be found here.

Windows 7 has been rapidly encroaching on Windows Vista's market share, as Microsoft's second-most-used operating system after XP, over the past few months. On May 3, analytics company Janco Associates issued a report suggesting that Windows 7 occupies 14.8 percent of the overall operating system market, putting it ahead of Vista.

However, that data runs contrary to that of other analytics companies, such as Net Applications, which pegs Windows 7 at 11.68 percent of the market, behind Vista at 15.60 percent and XP at 63.41 percent.

Windows 7 has proven to be a solid seller for Microsoft over the past few months. During an April 22 conference call, the company reported sales of 90 million Windows 7 licenses, helping boost overall quarterly revenues to $14.50 billion.

"Windows 7 continues to be a growth engine, but we also saw strong growth in other areas like Bing search, Xbox Live and our emerging cloud services," Peter Klein, Microsoft's chief financial officer, told reporters and analysts on the call. "Our record third-quarter revenue along with continued rigor on cost management resulted in exceptional EPS growth."

However, consumer adoption of Microsoft products has not been matched by businesses, whose spending on IT infrastructure remains anemic in the wake of a massive global recession. During the earnings call, Klein suggested that a "return in business hardware spending" seemed to be in the works, but that strengthened corporate uptake could potentially be some time away.