Avoid Designing New Technology Products Dependent on Parallel Changes Outside of Your Control

On July 10, 2013, Mr. Michael Endler, Associate Editor of Information Week, published an article to the Information Week website: Microsoft Preaches XP Conversion. The problem Mr. Endler describes in his article, amounts to a public relations snafu for Microsoft®.

According to Mr. Endler, approximately 160 million Microsoft Customers for the Windows XP product are stuck on this now obsoleted platform. They can’t migrate up to Windows 8. The hardware they own won’t support the new operating system. PCs and laptops are now out of favor, so consumers have little, if any incentive to spend the money on the new hardware required to run Windows 8. At the same time, the old operating system still works (We, ourselves own a laptop running Windows XP and still use it daily with zero problems).

So what’s the lesson for early stage technology businesses? Don’t design products your customer can only use should he/she buy something from somebody else. This point may seem obvious, but for several product cycles Microsoft implemented the same product strategy. Intel® would introduce a new chip and Microsoft, in turn, would build an operating system designed to exploit the capabilities of the new chip’s kernel. But here’s the catch: Microsoft had no responsibility for the new hardware. From an accounting perspective the new operating system software was very profitable. As well, smartphones, tablets and thin client computers (like Google Chromebook) had not yet hit the market. So the serious vulnerability this product development strategy exposed was, apparently, not a major point of concern for Windows product management.

Now, of course, consumer tastes for computing hardware have changed dramatically. Microsoft is stuck with millions of customers who can only become more dissatisfied, as time goes by, as support for Windows XP falls away. With this conundrum in the spotlight, it shouldn’t be difficult to understand why the Surface initiative was an important step forward for Microsoft as it attempted to correct the product design methodology of the past.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

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