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What's the matter with Microsoft?

Gregg Keizer | June 26, 2013
Experts search for meaning in three Microsoft U-turns.

But by restricting that ownership, and doing that suddenly, Microsoft stepped into a morass when it told customers they couldn't move Office to a different PC or said that Xbox games could not be resold. It violated that feeling of ownership, which customers interpreted as stealing something rightfully theirs.

"People don't adjust well to change when that change means less rights and freedom than before," Miller said, using words that could have been spoken by Boston radicals like Samuel Adams in 1774.

Others echoed Miller on the difficulty of changing behavior and Microsoft's apparent belief that customers would willingly accept change, as evidenced in statements by Microsoft executives that Windows 8 users would quickly grow comfortable with its far-reaching alterations.

Users don't like change
"It's very hard to make monumental business changes in this day and age," said Peter LaMotte, an analyst with Levick, a Washington, D.C.-based strategic communications consultancy. "People are used to certain functionality, certain interfaces, and it's very difficult to take those things away from them."

In other words, Microsoft either didn't view those rights, implied or not, in the same way as did customers -- a failure of one kind -- or ignored evidence to the contrary, an error of quite another dimension.

Philip Morton, a senior practitioner in gaming at Foolproof, a U.K. user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design consultancy, wasn't sure which it was -- though he leaned toward the latter -- but he was certain Microsoft screwed up on the Xbox One.

People will accept change, Morton said, if it's clear there are benefits to doing so that outweigh the burden of the change itself. While that may read as obvious, Microsoft either forgot it or knowing it, plunged ahead anyway.

"Microsoft had a carrot and a stick, but it was all stick and no carrot," Morton said of the Xbox One plans, which were pitched as a way to simplify sharing games within a family or group of friends, and to make a customer's game library available from any Xbox console. "Xbox has been successful despite Microsoft, not because of it," he said. "[With the Xbox One] there was too much Microsoft in the Xbox. Too much of the traditional Microsoft had a say in that decision. They thought more of their business requirements and what the business wants than what the customers want. They didn't communicate any benefit to the changes, and treated customers like criminals."

Forcing changes onto customers -- not, for instance, giving them an option, as Microsoft has by maintaining traditional "perpetual" licenses even as it pushes Office 365 subscriptions -- was the final straw, said Morton.

 

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