Microsoft's Unsung Success

Article excerpt

Byline: Daniel Lyons

Windows 7 is a smash hit.

These days I almost feel bad for the guys at Microsoft. They've got what anyone in the world would consider a hit product on their hands, and guess what? Nobody cares. Everybody is so busy gushing over Apple's iPad--myself included--that they are not paying any attention to what's going on in the land of Windows.

To wit: Windows 7, the latest version of Microsoft's operating system, is the hottest-selling product in the company's 35-year history. In five months Microsoft has sold 90 million copies. That's twice the rate of Microsoft's last operating system, Windows Vista. "Windows 7 is on a tear right now," says Brad Brooks, vice president of Windows consumer marketing. "The consumer PC segment has exploded since Windows 7 shipped." The growth rate for the consumer PC segment is now 20 percent, versus 6 percent before Windows 7 shipped--likely because a lot of customers were sitting on the sidelines, waiting for Windows 7 before they bought a new PC.

While Vista got blasted for being slow and bloated and glitchy, by most accounts Windows 7 is pretty high-quality stuff. Microsoft claims that in its own surveys, Windows 7 has received the highest customer-satisfaction scores of any product in its history. That may be because Microsoft ran a huge beta test, utilizing more than 8 million users who helped Microsoft find and wipe out bugs. I've been running Windows 7 for more than a year, and it's been very solid. To be sure, I still use Macs as my primary machines, but these days that's mostly out of habit.

Another reason Windows 7 seems so good is that Vista was such a disaster. The joke in Silicon Valley was that all Microsoft had to do to market Windows 7 was give it the slogan "Windows 7: It's not Vista." Vista had such a bad rap that many big companies refused to adopt it. Instead they hunkered down and hung on to Windows XP and waited for whatever came next. That was fine, since Windows XP was a solid performer. But XP was introduced in 2001 and now has grown long in the tooth. "Corporate customers realize they've got all the mileage out of Windows XP that they can hope to get," says Al Gillen, analyst with market researcher IDC, which projects Microsoft will ship 135 million copies of Windows 7 in 2010, on top of 27. …