Over the weekend a friend of mine, who's an experienced Windows user and relatively new iPad fan, told me, "I would never buy a Windows phone or tablet."
Never's a long time, so I asked him why.
He said, "I've had enough of Windows. It's time to get something more usable."
I sputtered a bit and ticked off a half-dozen retorts: By all accounts, Windows Phone 7.5 smarthones are quite good, and the Windows 8 smartphones will be better. Depending on your definition, Windows tablets aren't even on the market yet, so how can he judge? Some of the new tablets will run the programs he already knows and give him touch access to a different world. Windows 8 has really awesome new features, and it's rebuilt many old ones. Surely he could see all of this.
He wasn't buying a word I said. "I know Windows too well and I'm tired of it."
It suddenly struck me that maybe -- just maybe -- Microsoft's biggest marketing problem with both the smartphone and the new tablets will simply be the name "Windows." There's a strong core of people who have invested a lot in Windows, and they aren't going to change. In five years' time they'll probably be running the XP desktop in a VM on their smartphones. But the vast majority of people I know -- not just consumers but businesspeople, too -- equate the term "Windows" with "hassles."
It's not just the Gen Z folks for whom Hal Berenson's statement rings true: "For the 20-something and under crowd, the current Windows desktop experience is about as attractive as the thought of visiting a 19th-century dentist." The people I'm talking to aren't 20-somethings, they're 30- and 40- and 50-somethings. They'll go along with Windows if they have to, but if they don't have to, by gum they're going to go out and get something else. Anything else.
It certainly seems to me that moving the "Windows" brand to smartphones hasn't bought Microsoft one iota of market traction. Quite the opposite.