After the stable and reliable Windows XP, Microsoft Corporation faced a big challenge: release a new Operating System of the same calibre of its predecessor within a desired timeframe. Taking too long to develop, though, Windows Vista did not reach the company's expectations within the market. This report comprises the factors that caused this underperformance and subsequently the remedy implemented in the following release, Windows 7. Â
Over the past twenty seven years, Microsoft has been releasing a new Operating System (OS), in average, every two to three years. The OS that broke this timing - taking over five years to develop - is the main focus of our discussion: Windows Vista. Here, we will look into the factors and mistakes that led Vista to underperform when it comes to overtaking its forerunner - Windows XP - and what has been done by Microsoft to rectify these in the posterior release, Windows 7. Since OSs are commercial products, the criteria of failure and success used in this work is the overall acceptation of the product in the current market.
Before we dive into the factors that may have caused Windows Vista to miss perform regarding its sales and its acceptance, it is important to briefly mention its predecessor, Windows XP. Being in the market for over a decade now (see Fig.1), and just recently, August of 2012, losing its pole position in the OS's market, Windows XP indicates to be a very stable and reliable OS. According to NetMarketShare, (see Fig. 1) about a year after the release of Windows Vista, and more than six years after its own release, Windows XP had an amazing 83.78% share of the total OS's market.
With such a momentum to have to deal with, it is understandable that Windows Vista would not be able to shift the situation overnight. It is though important to notice that throughout its product life, Vista was not able to achieve a considerable percentage on OS's market when compared with its competitors from the same company.
Businesses' needs are an important factor that needs to be considered when analysing an OS. Since many require computerised operations on a regular basis, there is a clear demand for an OS that is reliable, stable and cost-efficient. Therefore, it is valid to mention that a delay in decision making is expected when a new OS comes out, especially if this change requires an expensive hardware upgrade, which is the case of Windows Vista. Martinovic et al. (2012) notice the considerable larger amount of minimum hardware requirements, e.g., processor speed, RAM memory and graphics card needed in Vista when compared with its antecedent.
When the time finally came to introduce Windows Vista in the market, many of Microsoft's partners, such as Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Samsung and Sony were not ready enough, in terms of internal hardware components, to provide the full performance envisioned by Microsoft.
As mentioned by Jones (2007) Windows Vista has many improvements over its previous releases, including a cleaner and more intuitive graphical response and a superior security including a new feature known as User Account Control (UAC). The new graphical user interface, called AERO, enhances the user experience by showing transparent and customizable windows,Â tabs, and icons associated with the current application in use. It also displays the previews updated in real time for a better organisation of tasks (see appendix pictures 1 and 2).
Another feature worth mention is a much better search engine within the OS with a real-time 3D visualization of the data a user is looking for. Furthermore there is SuperFetch: a new technology which allows the new OS to improve its own performance. Using this feature Windows Vista can follow and memorize all the programs, data, and all other informations most used, memorize and identify them, allowing the user to get a faster response from his PC, since Vista now, with SuperFetch, can figure out what the user is looking for while working.
During the maintenance and evaluation phase of the NPD, a factor slipped Microsoft's control. Although security is a very important foundation of any reliable OS, Microsoft took the security issue to such an extent that it turned back on them. As noticed by Hiner (2008), while UAC increases the overall security of the system, this feature has the downside of being user-hostile as it asks the permission of a user to perform many mundane tasks.
An organisational problem in the design phase of the New Product Design Lifecycle (NPD) states (Lohr and Markoff 2006) that Microsoft had find out, by the summer of 2004, that the approach taken to build the new OS would not work. The giant corporation decided then to start afresh. This organisation and technology factor contributed to the delay in releasing the final product on time. The unusual length of time that took Microsoft to release Windows Vista in the market has inevitably increased people's expectation with regards the product.
An important commercial factor that may have influenced the poor acceptation of Windows Vista in the market was its inability to run older softwares and hardwares. The capability to run and work with older programs and drivers, in computer terms, is called compatibility. In Windows XP the engineers at Microsoft have been able to merge two different lines of code - 9x and NT. Having a single, highly-compatible Windows platform simplified the computing experience for users, IT departments, and software and hardware vendors. Although very important, this factor seems to have been completely disregarded by the software development team in the progress of Vista.
Fritsche (2007) mentions about the software and drivers incompatibility issues that he encounter trying to move from XP to Vista, in an academic environment. We cannot know for sure that this same factor affected all businesses, but it simply suggests that Microsoft should have put more effort into and further developed the testing phase of the NPD of its late released Vista.
When it comes to the evaluation of the overall performance of a product in the market - whether a product will succeed or not - it is important to notice that different facets will have dissimilar impact. Despite all the positive aspects of Vista, the OS as a whole has not performed in the market as expected by its creators.
Like its predecessor, Windows 7 has been introduced in the market with 7 different versions all designed to meet specific needs of Microsoft customers, from basic users to business environments. Based on the previous mistakes done with Vista, the company came up with a much better OS according to the analysis done by O'BrienÂ (2009).
First of all the main code, which has about 50 Â millions lines, has been reduced slightly, but above all it has improved its calculating algorithms which makes a relatively good difference in terms of Hard Drive Disk memory required to install the OS.
To deliver a better and lighter product, MicrosoftÂ decided toÂ remove some excessive features. Above all, the compatibility issue is solved thanks to a new technology, Microsoft Virtual PC, which allows you to install simultaneouslyÂ two OSs without conflicting with each other: Windows 7 and XP. Referring to the painful compatibility issue, the company finally overcame the trouble given with the release of Vista.
Furthermore, to satisfy its users, the new OS had to improve its performance with regards speed - in terms of software-running and data-processing. Some evidence (O'Brien 2009) clearly shows how the company improved the quality of the algorithms, allowing a fasterÂ time response when compared with Vista.
From our understanding, the failure of Windows Vista, according to our criteria, was a result of an incorrect NPD approach from Microsoft, since
The neglection from Microsoft concerning the compatibility issue between the new OS and previous hardwares and softwares indicates a possible cause of the failure of Windows Vista, so posterior improvements had to be addressed in response to such a matter.
After analysing the different commercial and organisational factors, according to what we have been searching, we conclude that the future of a product - whether a failure or success - highly depends not only on a single factor, but on a conjunction of many of them, all involved inÂ and related to thatÂ particular product.
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