Think that Microsoft doesn't listen to customers? The Windows Vista Family Discount proves otherwise. Here's how it came to be.
Last year, I ranted several times about the price of Windows and how it becomes extraordinarily difficult for multiple-PC families to upgrade all of their computers to the next version. I didn't talk about it at the time, but the reason I was so upset about it is because last year I was briefed about pricing plans for Vista, along with other Windows Featured Community leaders. When we told Microsoft reps that Vista was going to be too expensive for families, we were told we didn't know what we were talking about. Having never really been blown off by Microsoft like that before, I made it my own personal mission to inform the powers that Microsoft be that multiple PC pricing was a problem.
After getting an extremely positive response from my posts, I felt the need to take further action. I was initially going to set up an online petition, but as I was wrapping all of that up, I received an invitation to interview Jim Allchin in Redmond. I figured it would be better to pursue it privately than publicly shame Microsoft into doing it.
So last August I traveled to Redmond to interview Jim Allchin. After our fantastic on-air discussion, I brought up the need for specific family pricing. I told him that he had won, and most families have more than one computer. I also explained that Windows pricing turns families into unintentional pirates, and that households would delay moving to Vista because of the pricing combined with the reinforced WGA system. I pitched him on the idea that Windows Anytime Upgrade could dole out new keys at $50 a pop. Finally, I told him about the need to position Vista against Mac OS X, which offers a five license Family Pack for $199 (the first time in my history that I've ever linked to Apple.com... and the last).
He said he'd look into it, thanked me, and then walked out of the room. The next day I stayed on campus for the Vista TechBeta Tour, and I was shocked to find out that he was the keynote speaker. During the Q&A session, out of nowhere he asked the crowd of devoted testers, "Do you think there should be a Family Pack for Windows?" After a few seconds of stunned silence, the testers all agreed, nearly in unison. Jim responded "I think I'm going to look into a Family Pack for Vista", to thunderous applause and my own personal satisfaction.
That was the last I heard about it. Then last weekend before CES, the Featured Community leaders were briefed by the same person who briefed us on pricing at the previous Lab. This time, he had very good news, and we were the first people outside Microsoft to get the details on the Family plan (which turned out to be almost exactly what I pitched to Jim). When I asked him privately afterwards if Jim had anything to do with it, he told me that Jim was one of the only people with the authority to make the change.
So Microsoft does, in fact, listen to their customers... Windows Vista itself is a huge testament to that. Sometimes, you just have to talk to the right people to make change happen.
Speaking of the Family Discount, I've heard a lot of talk today about how Vista pricing is too high. I'm prepping a series of posts that dissects the real cost of Windows over the last two decades. It may change your mind about how expensive it is.