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Solving Microsoft's Marketing Errors

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Solving Microsoft’s Marketing Errors

Once again, Microsoft is on the "What’s next" trail instead of "What’s now." Longhorn is supposed to be the next-generation Windows capabilities applied to healthcare and real estate. The "future products will solve your existing problems" message is well worn out by Microsoft. What’s often missing in the messaging is how the problems are with Microsoft products or whether the problems should have been there in the first place

I see Microsoft as spending too much time talking about Longhorn when it’s Windows XP that matters right now. Take into account the failure of Windows XP evangelism, and about Microsoft’s stance on security, which, related to Longhorn evangelism, is about how new products will solve existing problems. Microsoft hasn't shipped a full Windows client refresh since 2001, when it delivered Windows XP. Windows XP SP2, as Microsoft has said repeatedly, is not a new version of Windows (despite all appearances to the contrary). If Longhorn slipped much past 2006, we'd be closing in on a decade between new Windows releases. That wouldn't sit too well with PC makers who love having a new operating system around which to market their machines. Nor would it make many Microsoft customers happy - especially those who have opted to license Windows under Microsoft's Software Assurance licensing scheme. They are expecting some kind of a Windows update within the three years that are covered by the plan.

By delaying Longhorn beyond 2006, Microsoft also would be exposing itself to potential defections. To date, there've been relatively few companies that have gone public with massive defections from Windows desktops to Mac or Linux desktops. (Servers are another story, as we know.) But if Longhorn gets pushed out any further, there could be more of an opportunity for disgruntled customers to think about switching, rather than fighting to stick with Windows.

What could Microsoft have done differently? Opted to make Longhorn a smaller, more incremental release from the get-go? That would have definitely been more doable, but far less dramatic. Decided against sharing Longhorn details and code so early in the development process? Not a great option, especially for developers who want to get as early a heads-up as possible on what's next for Windows. My favored option: Come out with an interim Windows release between Windows XP and Longhorn. Microsoft contemplated that one for a while, but officially nixed the interim release earlier this year.

Microsoft simply can’t evangelize Windows XP enough and really should pull back as much Longhorn evangelism as possible. There are a shocking number of businesses that still run Windows 95 or Windows NT (both desktop and server versions). The problem: Microsoft’s biggest competitor in desktop

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