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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  • strikeback03 - Thursday, May 7, 2009 - link

    In some things I can understand moving stuff, but there are also some that were moved for no good reason. For example, in XP to get display properties, you right click the desktop and click properties. In Vista there is at least one additional page to click through to get that. Ultimately, it seems to me that MS tries too hard to hide the settings, likely to protect the users who don't know what they are doing, but a pain for the users who do. For the record, I had the same complaint about XP coming from win2000, that whenever you hop on a system that wasn't set to all the classic settings, it is a pain to get around. Reply
  • Jackattak - Thursday, May 7, 2009 - link

    But Strikeback you're talking about probably 10% of the users (power users). The majority of Windows users don't give a crap about modification, and that's who they're "protecting" based on your explanation.

    If you were running Microsoft, wouldn't you find it a small issue that you were "inconveniencing" 10% of your user base by making them go "one page deeper" in order to "protect" 90% of your users?
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Friday, May 8, 2009 - link

    Then do like the GPU companies do and have both simple and advanced versions of the interface. Allow them to change one setting to show or hide all the "advanced" stuff across the OS. And put it somewhere easy to find, like the start menu. Reply
  • mathew7 - Wednesday, May 6, 2009 - link

    I'm also a XP-lover. Even in XP I'm using it with classic view (2K view).
    My main problem is removal of old start-menu (cascading menus). I really hate the Vista style-menu.
    Also, I prefer UAC disabled and using run-as different user. Unfortunately (in Beta), explorer would not take the new permissions (launch in separate process was enabled for both users), which means configurations had to be done with admin logon. I have not tried this yet in RC. Also, once UAC was disabled, the UAC menu items (with the shield) were still present with no actions (again I don't know about RC).

    On the other hand, the new taskbar (with previews) and the multimedia settings are good-enough reason for me to switch.
    Reply
  • ssj4Gogeta - Wednesday, May 6, 2009 - link

    Start menu is one of the best features that were introduced in Vista. It's great on a netbook or a small monitor. You also don't need to move your mouse, just type in the first few letters of the app name. It also searches your documents for you.

    And about that RAM issue, what did you expect? I'm surprised it even runs on 512MB. Even netbooks have at least a gig of RAM.
    Reply
  • SirKronan - Wednesday, May 6, 2009 - link

    I like the revamped start menu as well. Love instant search!

    But did they add Blu-ray support to Media Center? This has been one of my complaints from the beginning about Media Center. It has to launch a separate program to play Blu-rays & HD DVD's, and I haven't found any way around it short of ripping the movies to a hard disk. I realize there are anti-trust/competitive laws, and I honestly don't mind having to buy PowerDVD or WinDVD to get their decoder, but I want the movie to play back in MEDIA CENTER with all of the interface's great features, like the smooth playback and intuitive controls, guide information, zoom feature (get rid of black letterbox - with 1080p you certainly have enough resolution to scale a tad!), etc.

    Have they added that yet? If not, PLEASE, Anand, ask them to for us!
    Reply
  • KingViper - Wednesday, May 6, 2009 - link

    Archsoft and the newest version of PowerDVD both have plugins for Media Center..from what I hear. Although Media Center itself isn't actually playing the Blu-Ray..it looks like it integrates well. You might try out the trial versions. Reply
  • chrnochime - Wednesday, May 6, 2009 - link

    Just because netbooks have more ram(and not every one of them has 1G, some has 512MB), doesn't mean the OS should try to gobble up as much as is available. I don't get why every iteration of their OS just keep getting bigger and bigger, with little discernible improvements to the average user.

    and this? "Ultimately, with Microsoft throwing Windows 7 RC1 out to the masses, we can't think of a good reason not to try it."

    Unless they have ways to export the settings in programs and whatever document users have when they were using W7, it'd be really hard to convince the average user to try out just for sake of novelty.
    Reply
  • KingViper - Wednesday, May 6, 2009 - link

    "I don't get why every iteration of their OS just keep getting bigger and bigger, with little discernible improvements to the average user. "

    Many things an OS is responsible for is not necessarily obvious to the average user. Compatibility with almost all hardware available, including keeping the OS as secure as possible. DX10\DX11 and h264 codecs etc. etc. etc. TONS of stuff is added, but it isn't necessarily used everyday. Of course it's going to get bigger.

    I don't understand how XP users are about as bitter with Microsoft as Mac users are. Can you just not afford a Mac or what?
    Reply
  • mathew7 - Wednesday, May 6, 2009 - link

    I also would like to say about W7RC and low-RAM:
    Windows 7 on 512MB RAM (desktop Intel G45 MB w/laptop HDD) feels to me like XP din on a 64MB RAM laptop years ago. It's good for internet/light work, but even for that you need patience because of swapping.
    Reply

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