Microsoft misjudges customer loyalty with kill-XP plea

Expert questions Microsoft's strategic sense, calls XP upgrades a shakedown worthy of the 'Sopranos'

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"Microsoft should state the positives of upgrading from XP, but then do everything possible to make that easy," said Grabowski when asked what he would advise Microsoft to do if asked. He suggested deep discounts for upgrades to a newer version of Windows and a migration tool that retains data and settings when upgrading from XP as incentives.

Microsoft has hammered home points it believes are enticements for XP owners, regularly citing improved security, for example, and claiming that newer PCs are cheaper to operate. It stressed both in a recent news release (download PDF) targeting small business owners.

And the company hinted last week that it will soon offer XP users a data migration tool. In a Feb. 25 comment on the blog where he made his original "help-us-help them" request, Brandon LeBlanc, a Microsoft marketing communications manager, said, "On the data migration point you bring up, stay tuned as I might have more to share on something that might make this easier and more like an upgrade."

LeBlanc was referring to XP-to-Windows 8.1 upgrades, which only let customers wipe the hard drive of a PC before installing Windows 8.1. No data, files, settings or applications are transferred; instead users must back up the XP PC's hard drive, then later transfer files, re-enable settings and reinstall applications.

"That might be a good short-term move," said Grabowski. Even so, the fact that Microsoft only now decided to offer such a tool was proof that it had no plan to get people off XP. "That sends a bad message to their customers," Grabowski added.

He returned to the loyalty theme, again asserting that the root of Microsoft's problem was that it had done little to make its customers loyal enough to call on them for help. "Harley-Davidson is a great example of a company with very loyal customers," Grabowski said. "They tattoo the logo on their arms. Harley-Davidson could ask them for help. But Microsoft has a long way to go to match that kind of loyalty."

Microsoft has not changed its approach, even after the rebuff from customers. In a long piece posted to the company's Fire Hose blog and on a website that touted XP-to-Windows 8.1 upgrades and new hardware, and included a countdown clock to XP's retirement, Microsoft continued to promote the notion that people still running Windows XP should buy a new device or upgrade to Windows 8.1.

"It is important that customers move to a supported operating system and productivity suite, like Windows 8 and Office 365, so they can receive regular security updates to help protect their computer from malicious attacks," said Jay Paulus, director of Windows marketing, in the Fire Hose blog last Wednesday. "The best way to ensure that you are keeping your personal data safe is to upgrade to a modern Windows PC or tablet."

"That's like GM saying it's not going to service your five-year-old car, so you have to buy a new one," said Grabowski.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at  @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is

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Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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