John Gruber of DaringFireball writes that the general ambivalence PC users have towards their computing experience may be the biggest challenge Microsoft faces as it attempts to convince users to upgrade from Windows XP, a goal which they didn’t achieve with the release of Vista.
But so here’s a thought: What if the reason why most PCs are still running XP has nothing to do with whether Vista is “good” or “bad”, but rather is the result of indifference on the part of whoever owns these untold millions of XP machines, be they at home or in a corporate IT environment. I.e., that switching to Vista, regardless of Vista’s merits, seemed like too much work and too much new stuff to learn; that the nature of the PC as a universal commodity is such that most of them belong to people who value “old and familiar” more than “new and improved but therefore different”. If that’s the case, Windows 7 may not do any better than Vista. Perhaps Windows 7’s competition isn’t so much XP as it is apathy.
Put another way, the idea that Windows 7’s quality will spur upgrades from XP is predicated on the fact that the people holding out on XP make their computing choices based on quality. But if that’s the case, why exactly are they still running Windows XP? Why are they still using Internet Explorer? I think it’s hard to overstate the fact that, with the explosion of the Internet as a universal communication medium, hundreds of millions of PCs have been purchased around the world by people who don’t care about computers or software at all.
For anyone who follows tech closely, it’s hard to believe that the vast majority of consumers couldn’t care less about their computing platform as long as they can browse the web and check their email. But that’s exactly the camp most people fall into. As Gruber implies, even if Windows 7 turns out to be the greatest OS of all time (thank you, Kanye), most Windows consumers would yawn and balk at upgrading.
Mac users, for the most part, make a concious decision to spend extra cash on a product they feel offers a better user experience. As opposed to many Windows users, Mac users are actually invested in the product and are therefore more willing to upgrade when a new OS release rolls out.