If you’ve spent much time here then you already know that I think Windows Vista is a decent operating system that is unfairly maligned. If I had a dime for every time I’ve had someone talk to me about how much Vista sucks only to say they haven’t tried it when I ask if they’ve even touched the OS, well, I’d have at least a few bucks to spend. Surely I’m not the only person who’s noticed that it’s gotten to the point of being “common knowledge” that Vista blows chunks such that the criticisms are repeated endlessly by people who haven’t even used the OS.
It seems Microsoft noticed that trend as well and they set out to put it to the test:
Spurred by an e-mail from someone deep in the marketing ranks, Microsoft last week traveled to San Francisco, rounding up Windows XP users who had negative impressions of Vista. The subjects were put on video, asked about their Vista impressions, and then shown a “new” operating system, code-named Mojave. More than 90 percent gave positive feedback on what they saw. Then they were told that “Mojave” was actually Windows Vista.
“Oh wow,” said one user, eliciting exactly the exclamation that Microsoft had hoped to garner when it first released the operating system more than 18 months ago. Instead, the operating system got mixed reviews and criticisms for its lack of compatibility and other headaches.
To be sure, the focus groups didn’t have to install Vista or hook it up to their existing home network. Still, the emotional appeal of the “everyman” trying Vista and liking it clearly packs an emotional punch, something the company has desperately needed. Microsoft is still trying to figure out just how it will use the Mojave footage in its marketing, though it will clearly have a place.
I wouldn’t be surprised by that at all. Certainly Vista has it’s issues, but then what OS doesn’t. The truth is the problems it had at launch were no where near as bad as what XP went through and, as was the case with past versions of Windows, it’s been slowly improving since then.
Apparently Microsoft is rolling out a new campaign promoting Vista that will run into the hundreds of millions in dollars and will include such things as free technical support for small businesses that switch to using Vista. Along the way you can be sure they’re going to be using that Mojave footage to show that Vista has gotten a bad rap:
“In the weeks ahead, we’ll launch a campaign to address any lingering doubts our customers may have about Windows Vista,” Ballmer wrote. “And later this year, you’ll see a more comprehensive effort to redefine the meaning and value of Windows for our customers.”
What gives the Mojave project its power, though, is the fact that it isn’t Ballmer or someone else at Microsoft saying that Vista has gotten a bad rap. It’s everyday people.
With scenes reminiscent of both Apple’s “real people” campaign of a few years back as well as classic commercials from Folgers and others, the Mojave project could prove a formidable weapon.
The Mojave project is remarkable both for its humble origin as well as the speed with which it was pulled off. The idea started barely two weeks ago in an e-mail from Microsoft’s David Webster to several superiors, including Veghte. Given the green light, Microsoft started videotaping responses just last week, in San Francisco. The preview Veghte gave to CNET News on Wednesday was the first time the footage had been shown outside the company and its contractors.
The footage could get a public airing as soon as next week or even at Thursday’s financial analyst meeting, although plans were still in flux as of late Wednesday night.
With the success of Apple’s anti-Vista ads—Macs are up to an 8.5 market share now—I’m surprised it’s taken this long for Microsoft to get around to fighting back. Now the question is are the big enough to overcome “conventional wisdom”?