A refrain we use quite often here at Global Nerdy is that Microsoft’s consumer offerings make you feel as though you’re dining from the table scraps from the dumpsters of the customers they really love: corporate drones running Office, Exchange and SQL Server. However, there are a couple of bright spots in their more recent consumer items:
- The XBox 360, which despite the “red ring of death” issue, has proven to be a great console for the hardcore gamer,
- and just now, the fact that the first-gen Zune can have all the new features being delivered in the second-gen Zune through a free software upgrade. Engadget puts it best: “This is how you treat your customers”.
This move isn’t just uncharacteristic of Microsoft, but in light of the recent Appledickery — that is, Apple’s war against its own fans — it’s downright inspired:
- The iPhone’s “early adopter tax” — dropping the price of the 8GB iPhone a mere two months after its initial release and Steve Jobs’ initial brush-off of angry users with the line “That’s what happens with technology”.
- iPhone “bricking” — Apple’s disabling of modified iPhones.
- The “gimping” of the iPod Touch. Despite the fact that the iPod Touch is running on the same OS as the iPhone, some of its software is a crippled version of the iPhone’s.
Twenty years ago, the portable music player of the time — the Walkman — could only be a Walkman since it was a single-purpose hardware whose sole task was to play cassette tapes. That era’s video players, cellular phones and handheld electronic games also faced the same mechanical limitation — each device could only perform its intended task. Under the hood, each of these device types was quite different.
These days, there isn’t much that separates music players, video players, phones and handheld electronic games. While the user interfaces are different, they’re all just general-purpose computers that vary in processing power and memory. This fact is not lost on the vendors, but many are hoping that consumers are still stuck on the mechanical-era “upgrade treadmill” mindset. Apple seems to be thinking this way, but Microsoft apparently isn’t. Kudos to Microsoft for treating their early adopters properly.