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By Greg Mills
My PC friend, Shawn, who manages the electronics department at my local Sam's Club Warehouse, filled me in yesterday on the latest issues in the epic saga of his attempt to load Windows 8 on his PC. Getting everything working turns out to be quite a trick.
After installing Windows 8 last week, the "operating system" worked okay (just okay, more about that later), but Shawn noticed his optical drive wasn't working any more and that the user interface "sucked"." So he reloaded Windows 8. Then the PC wouldn't boot. Restart, restart, restart ... nothing. Shake the PC really hard, tap it with a rubber mallet, slap the screen just so, yet no luck. Dead meat. Pull the hard drive, remove your files with another computer, completely wipe the hard drive. Replace the clean hard drive into the old PC and reload Windows 8 for the third time.
Shawn is by this time sort of perplexed. With all the work and cost of upgrading his PC, he really finds that he hates the Windows 8 user interface so much he is still thinking of going back to Windows 7 and returning Windows 8.
When an experienced PC user like Shawn is so fed up he tells me he is ready to buy a Mac over what ought to be a simple PC system upgrade, that spells disaster for Microsoft. When he has the money to spend on it, he assures me he is thinking about buying a Mac.
This means on a microcosmic one consumer level the PC replacement cycle is broken. On a cosmic level, declining PC sales threatens Microsoft as never before. Keep in mind, this guy sells iPads for a living. How long will PCs put up with Balmer's clown act?
Anyway back to our story: Shawn's PC finally boots and the optical drive is now working! Open Microsoft Office ... Open Microsoft Office ... oh XZXX! Call Microsoft and get permission to reload Office. By this time the people at Microsoft certainly know there are significant issues with loading the Windows 8 OS, so with little argument they give our poor PC the fresh code he needs to get his Office software working.
By this time Shawn's wife is so angry with all the noise and time wasted she chews the poor guy out. Hey, it shouldn't be that hard to upgrade system software. To add insult to injury, you have to call Microsoft to get a fresh code to reload software you have already purchased, every time you reload it.
Rumor has it that despite having been the richest man in the world, Bill Gates still lost a lot of sleep over the issue of pirated software that didn't bleed money into his coffers. Steve Jobs, on the other hand, wisely saw that while Apple also lost a lot of money because of people who used his software and didn't always pay for it. However, his long view was that the ease of use for the platform was a strong selling point that trumped short term cash.
While Apple has significantly reduced its price on its software, the platform has grown to the point that they make plenty of money on the software division, despite being much looser than Microsoft on unlicensed use.
I called Apple one day a few years ago on an issue regarding a new Apple laptop, and the guy I spoke with expressed surprise when I mentioned the very recent OS I was using. He said that their records indicated I was using the previous OS. Hmmmm, so Apple does know a lot about what we are running but isn't likely to email us a bill for software they have no record of us buying. I wouldn't put that past Microsoft for one minute.
We fan boys don't loyally love Apple because they are chumps, but because the company has a long view of the situation and just does a great job of supporting us. Long term consumer loyalty is far more lucrative to Apple than collecting every dime owed on software releases.
Remember the old days when you had to have a code to type in the start-up screen when some new program was installed? It has been years since I had to do that. Now, imagine that the code you type in only works once. What if you had to call in and get a new code from Microsoft every time you reloaded a program? Welcome to the world of the PCs out there.
Just this morning my wife asked me if it was okay if she clicked the automatic software update prompt on the screen of her iMac. I told her that when she saw the Apple update box it was fine to click update. Apple users trust and respect the company for many reasons. Not throwing half baked software out the door (very often) is one of those reasons.
I read the book on "insecure software" written by David Rice, an in house expert on computer security at Apple. "Geekonomics," a word coined by Rice really makes the case that there are two distinct approaches to creating and selling software. The Apple approach is the most costly as the company carefully and extensively tests and refines the software before launching it. (Maps for example, ought to have been released as a beta product to lower expectations)
Microsoft, on the other hand, takes their cheaper-to-produce, less tested software, sells that software half baked and lets the users discover the flaws and report in for future patches and updates. This really, in a nutshell, is why expectations for Apple software is much higher than with Microsoft software.
Had Maps for Windows Mobile had identical issues would there have been such a flap? There really is a double standard as Apple has a reputation for pretty glitch free software and Microsoft gets a pass on such issues until the patches are ready and released. This is why Microsoft patches its software virtually weekly and Apple rarely patches more than monthly.
There are exceptions to every rule and countless cases where what I have said is right on, so spare me the flame mail.
That is Greg's Bite.