Microsoft's Attempt To Convert Users From Windows XP Backfires Thanks To Low Loyalty, Limited Benefits

For the past few months, Microsoft has been loudly and insistently banging a drum. All support and service for Windows XP and Office 2003 shuts down on April 8 -- no more security updates, no more fixes. In early February, faced with a slight uptick in users on the decrepit operating system the month before, Microsoft hit on an idea:  Why not recruit tech-savvy friends and family to tell old holdouts to get off XP?

The response to this earnest effort was a torrent of abuse from Windows 8 users who aren't exactly thrilled with the operating system. Microsoft has come under serious fire for some significant missteps in this process, including a total lack of actual upgrade options. What Microsoft calls an upgrade involves completely wiping the PC and reinstalling a fresh OS copy on it -- or ideally, buying a new device.

According to Gene Grabowski, an executive vice president with PR management firm Levick, this disaster was predictable. Microsoft has misjudged how strong its relationship is with consumers and failed to acknowledge its own shortcomings. Not providing an upgrade utility is one example -- but so is the general lack of attractive upgrade prices or even the most basic understanding of why users haven't upgraded.

If you're not familiar with modern operating systems, this is not a feature

Microsoft's blog post listing reasons why consumers should upgrade include the following "advantages." We've thoughtfully included our evaluations.

Windows 8 is "Highly Personal."

True. Since I started using Windows 8, I've begun referring to my computer with very particular names and specific phrases, most of which I didn't learn in Sunday School. When your ad copy includes the phrase "more background designs and colors" as a feature, it's possible that you're marketing to the wrong crowd.

"The Best Windows yet... scaling from 8-inch tablets, two-in-ones, and large-screen all-in-ones."

Remember, this is a blog post aimed at selling people running Windows XP. Forget tablets -- what does it do for ancient eight-pound Inspirons with wheezing fans and a mole rat living in the ducting? How's it work on a VGA-based LCD with a maximum resolution of 1024x768? Please, tell me how your touch-based tablet experience will boost the performance of my roller-based mouse.

"A beautifully redesigned store."

Full of software no one wants with hardware requirements your computer couldn't meet if someone kicked it off a cliff. If you're still on Windows XP, it's entirely possible that you're stuck with graphics hardware that's barely DX9-capable.

"Deep cloud integration with OneDrive."

If I tell my grandmother her new OS has "deep cloud integration," she'll look concerned and ask me if it makes the computer hard to see. She might even hook up a dehumidifier nearby to keep the water vapor down.

Underneath the snark, a real problem

Ok, so, making fun of Microsoft is easy -- but underneath the tone-deaf messaging, there is a genuine problem. Windows XP is 13 years old and Microsoft has no obligation to continue supporting it -- but failing to support it means that many of the most vulnerable or cash-strapped customers could end up playing host to an avalanche of malware or security exploits.

Microsoft's right to kill XP is unquestioned, but the company appears to have no insight into why its customers continue to use the OS. The fact that it only recently made a file migration tool available is evidence that Redmond hasn't actually investigated the problem. Do consumers need a low-cost upgrade version? Upgrade tools? New hardware? Are the 29% of users still stuck on XP pirates, consumers, small businesses, or enterprise users? Are we talking about broke kids in their 20s with old netbooks, elderly people stretching out the lifespan of a computer, or foreign users who can't afford an upgrade?

The fact that Microsoft apparently can't be arsed to find out means the upcoming transition will be ugly.