Windows XP and the importance of listening to customers

On June 30, Microsoft will discontinue Windows XP in an effort to force all PC users onto Windows Vista.  As this date gets closer and closer, they have stubbornly insisted that they will not change their plans.

Last week, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer blinked, but in a rather confusing way:

  • The sensible part:  Ballmer claimed that they might reconsider their decision if that's what customers wanted.

  • The confusing part:  Ballmer appeared to be completely ignorant of the multitudes of people publicly begging for XP to get a stay of execution.

Just want kind of customer feedback would Ballmer be able to hear?

It's really not that hard to find overwhelming evidence of large numbers of people who want to continue using XP.  A simple Google search for the string "save windows XP" results in over 200 thousand hits.

Oh yeah, I forgot -- Steve probably doesn't use Google.  Maybe the problem is that he just can't find any XP fans on the Internets?  :-)

Or maybe Ballmer is following the now fashionable trend of counting an Internet person as only 3/5 of a real person?

  • Sure, Ron Paul has lots of fanatical supporters, but they're mostly just people on the Internet, and they don't really count.

  • Sure, Barack Obama has raised truckloads of money, but he mostly gets it from people on the Internet, and they don't really count.

  • Sure, over 170 thousand people have signed the Save Windows XP petition, but those people are on the Internet, so they don't really count.

Or maybe this is simply the most arrogant corporate decision in history?  Maybe Steve can hear all of these desperate cries but he simply doesn't care.

Power corrupts.  Every monstrously large organization eventually turns into, well, a monster.  The next step is for all these organizations to start borrowing each other's tactics.  Hey Steve, why not start waterboarding everybody who won't switch to Windows Vista?  Apparently it's legal.  :-)

The whole situation is most annoying to those of us who are running small software companies.  Unlike Microsoft, we actually have to listen to our customers.  When they tell us to jump, we ask how high.

Microsoft is telling millions of its customers to jump.  Out of principle, I am doing my best not to comply:

  • I'm typing this blog entry on Windows XP.

  • That instance of Windows XP is actually a VMware image running on my Mac.  I started using a MacBook Pro with Leopard a couple months ago.  And I love it.

  • I just donated fifty bucks to the ReactOS project.  I'm figuring that in the long run, I've got a better chance of getting Windows XP from ReactOS than from Redmond.

Some of my readers are horrified at this blog entry.  "But Eric, aren't you a .NET developer?"

Yes, I am.  My overall posture toward Microsoft is still friendly.  I still use Windows every day.  I still love Visual Studio.  C# is still my favorite language ever.  Heck, I'm even a big WPF fan, so I'd actually prefer to see the world switch to Vista.  I've used Vista, and while I didn't find it to be a compelling "must-have" upgrade, I rather liked it.

But none of this means that I'm going to give my blanket agreement to every decision Microsoft makes.  In this case, I object to Microsoft's plan, not because Vista is so awful, but rather, because ignoring customers is so wrong.