Apples and not apples

I’ve commented before a couple of times that Microsoft could release the MacBook or iPod and everyone would declare it a dud. The products that the blue monster releases which are good (Messenger, Office, Visio, the server products etc) are ignored while the company’s detractors happily pick apart shortfalls of products like the Zune, or Windows Live Hotmail.

Possibly the best expression of this I’ve ever read is this article. Read the body first and then read comment 13!

So, it appears someone at Microsoft has had the same idea. Unfortunately they had it about Vista. Now the best I think I could say about Vista is that it has a couple of cool interface elements and features. Certainly it’s miles behind mac on ease of use, and considerably behind XP on stability etc. Is it a complete bag of spanners? Well of course not, most of the time…. But it needs to be amazing if it wants to be seen as amazing (like Office 2007 is).

Microsoft has been telling us a variation of that story for the last couple of years. I’d have a lot more faith in it if Gates himself hadn’t laughed at the product. In the Mojave Experiment, the team attempt to prove the product is actually pretty cool (it’s just had a pasting in the press) by running test user groups on Vista but telling the users it’s a new release (called Mojave).

Apart from sounding like a misunderstood teenager, what’s wrong with this picture?

  • We have no idea how the research was carried out
  • We have no idea what operating system the test users were currently using. 98 perhaps.
  • This is very cynical, but we don’t really know what the users were tested on (was it XP / Mac / Sugar?)
  • The worst parts of owning Vista are the bits that don’t happen in a lab (like it freaking out coming out of sleep) or being slow after the first hour or so, or taking hours to do certain random tasks
  • It seems the test was carried out on Cray super computer

The really careless thing about the marketing campaign (which appears to showcase about 55 users, although some of their contributions are only a few words):

  • No one dislikes Vista in the tests. Come on!! You could be road-testing free, unaddictive cocaine and you’d find someone who decided they didn’t like it for some reason. That’s what research is like. I bet even Apple gets the odd negative comment in groups. (Here we really see the marketing agency crumple to their old fashioned ways despite trying to harness genuine testimony)
  • How, on earth, did they get permission. By the structure of the ‘tests’ the users must have only given permission for this use after the test. Why would they do that.
  • The whole point is that when guided through the OS, customers find they like it – i.e. it’s not intuitive and features aren’t discoverable.
  • Doesn’t this stink of calling customers stupid

Ultimately, I bet the top three complaints about Vista are

  1. speed
  2. compatability
  3. stability

The user experience is not built out of a list of features. It’s a much more complex sum than that: everytime you can’t work out how to use it, or it jams, or it crashes, or it just goes off and does something weird, deduct one point. Everytime you find a new thing you love, or something is really obvious, or it confounds expecatations (like resuming quickly from sleep, leaving the USB powered even when switched off), add a point.

On that basis Vista simply doesn’t get far enough away from zero.

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