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Countdown to Vista

My new laptop computer arrived today, and I'm pretty happy with what I purchased. 2GB RAM, 80GB 7200rps SATA hard disk, 1.83GHz dual-core Intel processor.

Windows XP Professional. No Windows Vista. It's not available until next week. I suppose I could have waited, but I had a significant need that made it inconvenient and unproductive to wait. My only option was to obtain an upgrade coupon with my system. That plus $10 will get me Vista using the Express Upgrade.

Besides, who said Vista's not available? I received it in my MSDN Professional subscription over two weeks ago. Many enterprise customers received it before the end of last year. I doubt that I would have installed it anywhere last year, but I rather like the idea of being able to if I wanted to (and had the time).

Microsoft's distribution strategy reminds me a great deal of our air travel system. I am a frequent flyer on one of the major airlines, with enough status that I occasionally get upgraded to first class. Now, first class is not about comfort. Certainly the seats are wider, and there's a bit more legroom. However, I typically manage to snare exit-row seating, and the legroom there is really just as good.

It's not about service. Certainly the free liquor is welcome, but food is hard to come by even on cross-country flights. It's a nice gesture to take jackets and hang them up, but I rarely wear one when traveling.

No, it's about status. You get to board the airplane first, when the gate attendant explicitly calls for the first class passengers. You get your choice of overhead storage. You get to act occupied while casually watching the coach passenger file in behind you, and occasionally see a child point to an empty first class row and say to his parents, Can we sit here?

Microsoft is creating the same kind of status with Vista. The customers it considers most important, the enterprise IT shops, get Vista first. The developers, with some status but not the most important, get it next. Small business (which is the role I use for online purchases) and consumers go last.

Now, I understand that it takes time to get product to the PC makers and have them prep it for mass market delivery. But there is no good reason not to make it available for download, or on DVD, simultaneously to all interested purchasers. That used to be the way Microsoft brought its products to market.

It's scary to think that Microsoft may have learned something about marketing from our broken air travel system. Were I not receiving an MSDN subscription, I would still be waiting. So on behalf of small business owners and consumers alike, I want to ask Microsoft, Can I sit here?

Posted by Peter Varhol on 01/22/2007

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