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Microsoft Caught In Intel Love Affair

"We really botched this"

You see where this story is going: The two-tiered Capable/Ready program took shape and was put in place - against the advice from Dell, retailers such as Best Buy and Wal-Mart and even commitments made to Hewlett-Packard. HP apparently invested "heavily" into preparing PCs with more graphics capabilities for the "promised that Microsoft would not give in to Intel" and leave the 915 behind. Addressing this issue, one email reads:

"We are caving to Intel. We worked hard the last 18 months to drive the UI experience and we are giving this up. The OEMs are behind us here, we have the support we need to drive this experience on today’s hardware. We are really burning HP - who committed to work with us to drive the UI experience across platforms and have already made significant investments. These three things just don’t add up to me. We are allowing Intel to drive our consumer experience. I don’t understand why we would cave on this when the potential to drive the full UI experience is right in front of us."

Most PC manufacturers were concerned that a two-tiered logo program or substituting Vista Capable for "Designed for Windows XP" would stall PC sales, if introduced too early. Dell requested that such a program should not be made public earlier than 90 days prior to launch of the product to allow the company to flush out its inventory of old PCs. The company also felt that two logos would add "another level of complexity to an already complex product". Wal-Mart told Microsoft that customers are likely to be confused by such a program and therefore was in favor of ditching the entry-level version Windows Vista Basic completely.

However, the primary goal of the two-tiered program was to keep PC sales numbers by suggesting that all those PCs can run Vista, in one way or the other. You may not have been the only one who was confused by Microsoft’s message. Steven Sinofsky (senior vice president, Windows and Windows Live Engineering Group) wrote in an email: "I was in bestbuy listening to people and can tell you this one did not come clear to customers. We set ourselves up. Also, I searched and wasn’t able to find a ’premium ready’ machine."

The sole goal to avoid stalling PC sales is seen throughout all emails, with many employees actually trying to clear up the message. It wasn’t meant to be, as Vista Ready was already tied in with Dell and Intel when the discussion began. For some reason, the consumer isn’t mentioned in more than a couple cases and even if we have listened and tried to understand well-oiled marketing machines, it is surprising to see how little the PC buyer was considered in this (published) communication.

Jim Allchin, who wanted Vista to become his masterpiece at Microsoft, was part of the communication, but apparently much too late. "We really botched this. I was not involved in this decision process and I will support it because I trust you thinking through the logic. But, you guys have to do a better job with our customers that what was shown here. This was especially true because you put me out on a limb making a commitment. This is not ok."

So, if you were confused by Microsoft’s Ready campaign, don’t worry. Microsoft was every bit as confused itself.