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Of all the complaints levelled at Windows Vista since launch, from the plain daft to the bizarre, there’s one grievance that I completely agree with. Buying Windows Vista, deciding which version to select, and getting the right flavour for your hardware is absurdly complicated.
Many years ago I was responsible for marketing a well-known toilet tissue brand here in the UK. When you’re selling a commodity product that, to be frank, people wipe their backsides with, you never make the purchase decision more complicated than necessary. Every additional SKU (stock keeping unit) had to have a reason to be. Slow selling lines weren’t tolerated by the retailers for long and, more drastically, drew shoppers’ attention away from the faster selling lines where the profits were greatest. When your product serves no more purpose than to help keep your customers’ nether regions fresh, you become exceptionally disciplined when managing your SKU line up.
For some reason, possibly historical arrogance or just marketing naivety, Microsoft doesn’t apply similar discipline to its SKU selection. Maybe we think our products are more engaging, more essential, more life-enhancing than anything our competitors can produce. Maybe we just enjoy making life difficult for everyone. Whatever the reason, this chart from Gizmodo tells you everything you need to know about how spectacularly wrong we got it:
The greatest irony here? Nearly every one of those laughably irrelevant toilet tissue products outsells every Windows Vista SKU. People spend more money each year on loo roll than on an operating system. Shouldn’t the purchase decision for each be approximately as simple too?
Isn’t it time Microsoft learned a lesson from the world around it and stopped making our stuff so insanely complicated to buy? If the toilet tissue people can do it, I’m sure we can too.