Microsoft Exec says Vista “Less Good”

Gradually and grudgingly, Microsoft is coming to terms with the tattered legacy of Windows Vista.

Microsoft isn’t good at admitting mistakes. It’s a little like George W. Bush in that regard. It’s not as if it hasn’t made any, mind you, it’s just that admitting them is difficult to do in a corporate culture that systematically forbids any display of perceived weakness.

Slowly, though, Microsoft representatives have signaled that Vista was less than perfect. Microsoft now is taking that disparagement a step further, treating Vista like a crazy aunt consigned to a mansion attic. Eventually, Microsoft will not speak of her at all.

For now, though Microsoft is remembering and acknowledging Vista, though not fondly.

Quoted in a Computerworld article at an investor conference, Charles Songhurst, Microsoft’s general manager of corporate strategy, said the following:

“What people underestimate is the importance of good or bad products. And sometimes your products are good, sometimes the products are bad. And I think Vista was a less good product for Microsoft.”

“Vista, a less-good product”? You know, I don’t remember that slogan in Microsoft’s advertising and promotional campaigns.

Moreover, who are these people to whom Songhurst refers, the ones who “underestimate the importance of good or bad products”? I don’t think he’s alluding to any of you, dear readers. Maybe he’s talking about his Microsoft colleagues.

Another interesting comment Songhurst makes relates to how Windows compares to Apple’s Mac OS X. Here, I’ll let him tell you:

“Apple has two very big structure advantages over us,” Songhurst acknowledged. “The first is its vertical integration … there’s always the quality of experience you can do if you go vertical that you can never do as a horizontal player.”

The downside to that strategy was that it limited Apple’s ability to make moves on the enterprise OS business, where Microsoft dominates the desktop even more than in the home. “It’s particularly constraining in the enterprise when you don’t provide the level of custom-ability, and extensibility,” Songhurst said. “It’s very difficult to see how Apple becomes compelling for the CIO over the next decade, and if they don’t become compelling to the CIO, they’re not going to make the inroads into the enterprise.”

Is he saying that Apple’s operating system, because of its inherent vertical integration and superior “quality of experience” (his words, not mine), is preferable for consumers, but not for enterprises? That’s one way of interpreting his remarks.

If that’s what he’s saying, I concur. For a long time now, I’ve said that Microsoft has an affinity for the enterprise that it simply doesn’t possess for consumers — and that affinity extends beyond operating systems.

At its core, Microsoft doesn’t understand consumers. There’s no shame in that.

It does, however, have strong appreciation and understanding of what businesses of all sizes want and need from their information-technology investments and suppliers. That’s a market Microsoft hasn’t fully tapped yet, especially in the world’s fastest-growing developing markets.

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