Windows 7: A New Marketing Approach

Microsoft’s new strategy to achieve this starts with how they are handling the Windows 7 development process. Microsoft believes that they’ve met all their technical goals in solving Vista’s problems and undesirable quirks, and they want to let the world know before someone else (i.e. Apple) tells the world otherwise. There’s a very specific marketing strategy in place to make this happen that’s focusing on users and the press alike, and before we dive into the technical matters it’s here we’d like to start.

For dealing with the press, Microsoft hit the ground running. Back in October of 2008 they invited most of the major press to come see the latest Windows 7 Community Technical Preview builds (more or less an alpha build). We weren’t able to attend this due to scheduling issues, but as far as the event was concerned it was a success: the press that attended were speaking highly of Windows 7. And they hadn’t even seen everything.

Besides directly courting the press, Microsoft has been making sure that there’s always something new to talk about, so that the press doesn’t stop talking. While Microsoft had previously discussed the new Windows 7 GUI and taskbar, the CTP builds did not contain these items. So when Beta 1 shipped with these items finally activated, it gave the press something to talk about even if they had previously reported on the CTP builds. Microsoft has continued with this strategy even after Beta 1 by still holding back features (hey guys, betas are supposed to be feature complete). Only now with RC1 are they showing off everything, so the press once again gets something new to talk about: Virtual Windows XP.

With the press thoroughly impressed with Windows 7, the focus becomes the users. There’s no better way to prove you’ve done something than to actually show everyone, so that’s exactly what Microsoft has done. While Windows betas have always been somewhat open, Microsoft had made the unprecedented move of making the Windows 7 betas wide open. Anyone that wants to try Windows 7 can, with no strings attached. Technical users have had no problem “acquiring” development releases before, but this opens up tasting and testing to anyone that can install the OS.


Marketing is in full swing before the OS even ships

Thus far Microsoft’s new strategy has been working well. By all measures the press is abuzz about Windows, and when Microsoft released Beta 1 to the public it resulted in a complete meltdown of their download servers. With no snark intended, Microsoft has clearly found an effective marketing strategy. If Windows 7 were to struggle like Vista, it wouldn’t be due to the marketing.

This brings us to today. Microsoft has rapidly blown through the beta process, and after just one official beta release they’re ready to certify Windows 7 for release candidate status. This marks the second public build of Windows 7, and will likely be an even bigger occasion than Beta 1. Release candidates are feature complete and are supposed to be good enough to ship, and at the very least should be good enough for daily use.

We’ve only had Windows 7 Release Candidate 1 for a few days now, so we’ve been scrambling to put together a guide on its features and performance in anticipation of what we expect many of you will be asking today: is it any good? Bear in mind that with performance subject to change between now and its release date this isn’t a top-to-bottom guide, but it’s something that should answer everyone’s burning questions about Windows 7’s performance while they install it.

Finally, Microsoft has continued to be tight-lipped on how long the release candidate stage will last. With respect to when Windows 7 will go gold, all they have said is that they are shooting for no later than three years after Vista, which would be February of 2010. However, it’s just about the worst kept secret inside Microsoft right now that they want to get it out in time for the holidays. It took four months before they were ready to certify it as a release candidate – it may be even less before it’s considered done. We would be surprised to see another release candidate if the beta process is anything to go by.

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  • thebeastie - Wednesday, May 6, 2009 - link

    I guess what would be the most naive is to think that Windows 7 is about anything else but money, I mean they could easily improve Vista to have every feature that Windows 7 has, but they wont.
    MS has handed out whole new versions of DirectX and just about every other type of similar feature that is in Windows 7 so forth via service packs in the past.
    Some how come that is not possible these days? Its just about treating us like complete fools.

    Reply
  • B3an - Friday, May 8, 2009 - link

    ...You do know you're talking to yourself thebeastie??

    Are you really this stupid or is apple paying you to write this?
    Reply
  • SkateNY - Wednesday, May 6, 2009 - link

    Microsoft is a company in decline. It's top managers, supporters, fanboys, and investors are all in denial about this.

    Their most recent OS was and remains an abysmal failure. Their attempt at competing in the MP3 market is a disaster, no matter how many people tell us that they love their Zune. Their "loss leader" in game consoles is just that...a leader in losses.

    Want proof? Look at the stock price for the past five years...at least five years.

    MSFT investors are desperate. They'll say and do anything to make others believe that the company is doing as well now as they were doing before they were adjudicated by the US Department of Justice as violating the Sherman Anti-trust Law in restraint of trade.

    They've lost a great deal of their investments over the past ten years. They're so desperate that they need to tell themselves -- and anyone who will listen -- that this is a great company.

    Sorry, but as is true in the rest of the real world, what has Microsoft done for anyone invested in them lately? The soft answer would be "nothing." The truth is that they've damaged their investors through bad judgment, poor management, and malfeasance.

    What they've done is move a great deal of their previously loyal customers to Apple and Linux. And a large percentage of them who haven't made that move are looking into it.

    It's a sad story. With so many resources, the best they could do was barely maintain their core products...Windows and Office. Not enough. The rest of the tech world is passing them by, and they don't seem to have a clue.
    Reply
  • piroroadkill - Thursday, May 7, 2009 - link

    Huh?

    Microsoft aren't going anywhere.
    Reply
  • SimpleLance - Wednesday, May 6, 2009 - link

    "It's a sad story. With so many resources, the best they could do was barely maintain their core products...Windows and Office. Not enough. The rest of the tech world is passing them by, and they don't seem to have a clue."

    Who in the tech world is passing them by? Linux? There is nothing in the Linux world that is an innovation. Everything is a just a bad copying of what they see in Windows. Same goes for OSX. Name a technology from Linux or OSX, and you will find that in Windows years ago.

    In the mean time, there is a lot of Windows features that neither OSX or Linux has.

    BitLocker drive encryption - OSX only has folder encryption. Windows has had that since Windows NT 3.x.

    Active Directory - now being copied by Linux

    Access Control List - only recently added in OSX. Has been in Windows NT 1.0.

    Remote Desktop - no equivalent at all in Linux or OSX. All they have is VNC. VNC started in the Windows world that got implemented in Linux and OSX. That is the worst form of remote desktop (screen scraping). Its like a high school student's home work. With Remote Desktop, Windows users threw away VNC as trash, and Linux/OSX picked it up - they really have nothing else, but junk.

    SMB - copied as Samba. Where is AppleTalk now? Apple does not know how to write an OS. They had to take BSD.

    DirectX - makes Open GL like a kid's work.

    Etc. etc.

    Who again is overtaking who?

    New in Win7...

    BITS Branch Cache (Vista had something called Peer Cache) - serverless P2P.

    Support for TRIM command for SSD - now perhaps being added to Linux. Another me too effort. Definitely not in OSX.

    Improved (less chatty) SMB - Samba is behind again. Nobody in the Linux world could make a better SMB. MS had to do it.

    VHD Booting - Linux folks probably scratching their head now. What is that? they say. How do we copy that?

    Plus all the other eye candy that people talk about.
    Reply
  • Hgr - Friday, May 29, 2009 - link

    "In the mean time, there is a lot of Windows features that neither OSX or Linux has."

    I am sure of that, but of those you are listing here, many simply do not apply.

    "BitLocker drive encryption - OSX only has folder encryption. Windows has had that since Windows NT 3.x."

    BitLocker is a trademark of Microsoft, so it will be difficult to find it in non-Microsoft operating systems. If you're looking for drive encryption in Linux, distributions have been supporting this for years.

    "Active Directory - now being copied by Linux"

    Yes, the Samba folks are quite active in reimplementing AD in Samba 4 - as a means of Windows interoperability. Note that DNS, LDAP and Kerberos, the three most important of the protocols that AD is built upon, have been copied by Microsoft from Unix systems. They have been available for Linux de facto from their inception.

    "Remote Desktop - no equivalent at all in Linux or OSX. All they have is VNC. VNC started in the Windows world that got implemented in Linux and OSX. That is the worst form of remote desktop (screen scraping). Its like a high school student's home work. With Remote Desktop, Windows users threw away VNC as trash, and Linux/OSX picked it up - they really have nothing else, but junk."

    Just because you don't know better solutions does not mean that there are none. VNC certainly isn't a native Linux remote desktop protocol, much less a universal tool for everyday work (it has not been designed to be one). For years, X11 SSH tunnelling has been available. For those who want a low-latency remote desktop, the NX compression protocol and software suite have been available for quite some time, and many are perfectly happy with it. Linux's NX can compress even Windows RDP even further. ;-)

    "DirectX - makes Open GL like a kid's work."

    Just because DirectX is good for making games does not make OpenGL "a kid's work". After all, DirectX is more akin to SDL than to OpenGL. OpenGL has clearly a different target audience - it is used to build industrial software. Is it surprising that it's different?

    "SMB - copied as Samba. Where is AppleTalk now? Apple does not know how to write an OS. They had to take BSD."

    Actually, SMB was not invented "at Microsoft". It is an intellectual child of three companies - IBM, Microsoft, and 3com. Many operating systems have later adopted this protocol. Surprising, again? We want to be able to talk to other systems so we adopt it. In Linux, you can use at least half a dozen networked file systems.

    "Improved (less chatty) SMB - Samba is behind again. Nobody in the Linux world could make a better SMB. MS had to do it."

    Why hasn't it been less chatty before? :-) Well, of course, Samba is behind, Microsoft is in charge of updating their broken protocols, the Samba team is not going to do this for them. A Linux user simply uses a less chatty (less broken?) protocol.

    "Support for TRIM command for SSD - now perhaps being added to Linux. Another me too effort. Definitely not in OSX. "

    Linux kernel and its file system modules have been ready for this since half a year ago, according to one of the leading Linux file system developers. And it is no "me too effort", not as long as it is not Microsoft that invented it a started manufacturing the devices. Are you trying to imply that for any hardware feature, there is only one OS allowed to support it without being accused of me-too-ism, and that all other systems that include support later are just copycats? Great, I've mentioned Kerberos. Good to see that MS joined the "I want it too" crowd. :-)
    Reply
  • andrihb - Wednesday, May 6, 2009 - link

    In your dreams, maybe. Reply
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, May 6, 2009 - link

    Unfortunately, there are plenty of applications that don't run natively in any *nix (Adobe is my problem) so some version of Windows is the only option. Reply
  • coolkev99 - Wednesday, May 6, 2009 - link

    I don't buy an OS based on company stock price. Reply
  • C'DaleRider - Wednesday, May 6, 2009 - link

    [quote]Look at the stock price for the past five years...at least five years.[/quote]

    OK...I did....and the stock price 5 years ago was in the $24/share range, as it was 4 years ago, 3 years ago, 2 years ago, last year. In fact, it's been around $24 per share going back almost 10 years ago.....although just after the beginning of 2000 it spiked to $48 per share, but then the dot com bubble burst and every tech stock fell, MS's included. The release of XP did give a bump to roughly $34/share, but again fell back to its "base" of around $24/share.

    Sorry, but this is the first fact you are sadly misinformed on.

    Then, the investors. Don't think most are crying and desperate at all. MSFT has been paying dividends every quarter, like clockwork. Granted, since Vista's release, it's not been spectacular, but has been fairly consistent.

    Consider MSFT's 5 yr. net profit margin, 27.9%, is still well above sector and industry average. The company's low price-to-earnings ratio -- which Oakmark Fund places at less than nine, based on estimates for this year's earnings -- is closer to seven if you exclude the $4 a share in net cash.

    Nicely, the stock is also currently sporting a dividend yield of 3%. But one problem is that investors, especially individual investors, put too much focus on growth expectations and too little focus on price.

    Here's another tidbit you overlooked in your bashing.....MS had an EPS of $1.87 in '08, its highest EPS pay since '99. And MS's net profit has grown from '04-'08, every year. (FYI...net profits were, from '04-'08: $8.1B, $12.2B, $12.6B, $14B, and $17.6B).

    Granted '09 will be "dismal," it's been dismal for everyone. But MS will still show a net profit and is paying nice dividends on its stock.

    And as for everyone crying and gnashing teeth about MS, I wonder why Barron's, and every other analyist, puts Microsoft as a strong buy and NOT ONE has MS as a sell of any sort.

    And game consoles? MS never planned to turn a profit on each...it IS a loss leader, just like the PS3. The games themselves are the profit center. Always has been like that and probably will always be like that.

    So, where's the panic? Where's the problem? MS is still sitting on over $640M in cash reserves.....something a lot of companies can only wish to have.


    Reply

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