Vista Vision?

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The more you clench your fists, the more we’ll slip through your fingers.
You’ve all heard the expression, but I’m starting to wonder if Microsoft has.

I work in a retail store selling computers, digital cameras, and other expensive trinkets. 90% of the customers who walk out of any given store get one of the computers in the bottom 10% of the price range of that store. I’ll say that again – 90 out of 100 people buy one of the 5 cheapest computers.

For now that means they get less RAM, a smaller hard drive, or maybe a less reliable machine. But when Vista is in full swing, what will this mean? I propose some brain-storming:

Vista will launch with six (6) different versions.

There is no doubt in my mind that at least three out of the five cheapest computers we sell will have the cheapest version of Vista. One of the other two might have the third step up, but maybe not. This means that 90% of the customers we have will be stuck with an operating system less capable than the one they purchased three to six years ago (which in my experience is about how often the people buying these machines upgrade – usually due to a failure or business need.)

The bad news is many of these people will find their new limitations and not be too happy about them. Whether they’re trying to copy a CD to an ISO or maybe come across some hassle playing their 200 GB mp3 collection, they will be raring to yell at someone about it – often times the salesperson, believe it or not.

Or perhaps the in-store technical support, which also happens to be me. Maybe they’ll call Microsoft and yell at them. What will Microsoft say? Probably something along the lines of “Shell out $600 and we’ll send you the premium version, which you can then take to the store and pay someone $150 to install for you.” Probably not what the person who bought the $500- $700 computer wants to hear.

The good news is there’s also a good chunk of people who just want to browse the Internet and check their email, they shouldn’t have a problem. Of course, what’s the purpose of upgrading to a different operating system just for that? Of course this leads to more bad news – these people, who just want to buy the most basic of computers for their email and Internet, don’t seem to think a router or a antivirus software is something they need.

Which means say hello to the new wave of Windows viruses. This brings me to the anti-piracy steps Microsoft is taking… How easy would it be to write a little virus that tweaks some license files? Seeing how just about every program ever written has been cracked, not too hard. But with Vista, the entire operating system will jump into a lock down mode, which would really make the user mad! Sounds like a prime virus target to me. Embed that into a chain email and have outlook automatically execute it.

Sort of sounds like a lose/lose situation for consumers, which means a lose/lose situation for retailers.

In comes Mac!

Now don’t even think about this being a plug for Apple – I’m one of the largest Anti-Apple people around. I simply hate the company. But I have to admit – they have some good timing here. Becoming publicly available in retail stores all over the world after switching to a cheaper hardware platform that’s compatible with Windows has started millions of people switching over, I’m sure.

By the time Vista gets a little market penetration, Apple will be very well seated in all the stores – and prices may even begin to fall a little (because you know Apple has to be making a killing off these new Intel machines.) Does anyone else smell a large turnover from Microsoft to Mac?

Now following the history of Microsoft, they will probably rebut by making their formats more cryptic, more secure and more this and that, making it harder to switch away from Windows, harder to convert your documents, pictures, music, home video and email to a format that you can use somewhere other than a Windows machine.

Those of you who have used Linux for a while know how long it took to ‘crack’ ntfs – and whenever they put out the new winfs, I’m certain it will take almost as long.

With all of this, I’d be surprised if at least half of the lower 90% Joes and Jills don’t at least consider going to Apple, and if your local salesperson is on commission – look out! They’ll make at least twice as much selling you an Apple over anything else. Even non-commissioned stores, such as the one where I work, offer incentives to sell an Apple over a PC, simply because even the cheapest Apple makes the store at least twice as much.

All in all, this presents a large opportunity for Apple. I’m personally not sure how I feel about this – as much as I hate Apple computers, I hate Microsoft just as much. At any rate, to all of you who are in sales: Start letting Joe and Jill know that their next computer probably wont do what their current one does, they just might be apt to buy one of those top 10% machines.

Will this be the last Windows? Probably not. Will it be the first in a downward spiral? Possibly.

Just my two-cents.

Email Nick


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