Since Microsoft has abandoned my plan of abandoning Vista, I feel compelled to help the company out in any way I can. And while I still believe abandoning Vista is the only true option of fixing Windows, I can appreciate the fact that Microsoft has dumped a huge sum of cash into the OS and it's loath to lose out.
Of course, with reports suggesting Vista will become a target for hackers in 2008 and now, even Microsoft executives have no idea what "Vista Capable" really means, I can't help but think this operating system is tanking faster than Microsoft Bob.
But I digress. Although Windows XP running Service Pack 3 is almost twice as fast as Windows Vista running SP1 and major hardware manufacturers are still selling XP machines out of desire for once, Microsoft wants to hold on to Vista regardless of where it takes the company. Will it force the company into a tailspin? I think it already has. Will it get worse? Possibly. But if Microsoft heeds my warnings and follows some of the tips I will outline below, Windows Vista may not be the utter failure I think it will be if nothing changes.
Tip 1: Go open source
Yes, you read that correctly. As far as I can tell, the only real solution to fixing Windows' slew of issues is to go open source. Now, contrary to popular belief, open-source software does not mean free software, so Microsoft can continue to sell the OS on an open-source platform without sacrificing its bottom line.
What will this achieve, you ask? It's quite simple really: an open-source Vista will allow any and all people to fix the code as they see fit and (for once) create a solid and secure Windows OS. Even better, it'll put Apple on notice and help create a possible marketing campaign surrounding the fact that Leopard is the only major OS that doesn't allow users to do what they want with a product they have purchased.
Perhaps most important, an open-source Windows Vista will open the floodgates against malicious hackers who have been fighting against Microsoft employees instead of the public at large. Simply put, you would no longer need to rely on Microsoft cronies to maintain your security--you can do it for yourself and patch any and all holes you can find.
Tip 2: Eliminate all of those versions and only sell Ultimate
Do we really need a slew of Vista iterations? I certainly don't think so. In this realm, Apple has it right: release one version of the software and maintain simplicity. Sure, people like you and me may know what the differences between Vista Home Basic and Vista Ultimate are, but can the same be said for Grandma Jane?
Simplifying its lineup of products will also help Microsoft reduce wait times at its call center (who else has sat through a voice prompt service asking you which version of Windows you have?) and allow for greater control over security and updates.
For my money, I would keep Windows Vista Ultimate on store shelves and get rid of everything else.
Tip 3: Stop focusing on Google and start focusing on Apple
I don't think there is any debating the fact that Microsoft is obsessed with Google. With Steve Ballmer making outrageous claims saying, "Google is only beating us in search" and the company making terrible acquisitions just to try to compete with Google, it has lost its focus.
First and foremost, Microsoft is a software company that has made Bill Gates rich because of Windows and Office; everything else is secondary. And as Google became the online powerhouse in this industry, Microsoft became envious and has tried to find ways to knock the former off its totem pole. Needless to say, it's a fight Microsoft can't win.
Microsoft needs to refocus its efforts on Vista and try to make it a compelling product that consumers actually want to buy. Google will always be there, and it will always be powerful--the same can't be said for Windows if Microsoft continues to ignore it.
Tip 4: Ditch Windows 7 and bring Windows online
This industry is moving towards the online space. Period. And so far, most accounts out of Redmond have stated that the next version of Windows will improve on some of the issues with current iterations of the OS, but no mention has been made (or even rumors leaked) that Microsoft will create an online element for Windows.
And it's for that reason that it should stop wasting its money on another desktop solution and use its endless supply of cash on something worthwhile--an online version of Windows. Can you imagine the surprise on the face of Steve Jobs if Microsoft hit the stage at CES in five years and said that Windows will be heading to the Internet? Even I would be excited to see that.
An online Windows would accomplish two extremely important goals: it would create an extremely compelling reason to buy the service, and it would give Microsoft a competitive advantage over Mac OS X for once.
As it stands right now, the future of Windows Vista doesn't look good. With a host of issues that could easily cripple the OS and even more problems with executive strategy, Microsoft is in a bad situation. And unless it changes its strategy, look for those problems to grow.