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Windows 7 Is Making People Forget About Vista

At one time, Windows Vista looked like a tornado of irreparable harm bearing down on Microsoft. But a new customer satisfaction survey shows that Windows 7 is helping to erase consumers' memories of Vista.

According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI)'s Q1 2010 report, released Tuesday, Microsoft's customer satisfaction score rose nine percent in the past year due to the positive reception Windows 7 has enjoyed. Microsoft's overall customer satisfaction score now stands at an all-time high of 76 on the ACSI's 100-point scale.

According to David VanAmburg, managing director of the ACSI, the opposite trend was seen in the wake of Vista's release in 2006. In the ACSI's 2007 report, Microsoft's customer satisfaction score dropped from 73 to 70, marking the first time a company's score was affected so negatively by a product release, VanAmburg said.

"When Microsoft's score tanked [in 2007], that was pretty much a first. But we're now seeing the reverse of that, as Windows 7 has had a reparative effect," VanAmburg said in an interview.

The ACSI's report measures customers' opinions of companies in a variety of industries, including phone service, healthcare, satellite and cable television. In Microsoft's case, the ACSI score doesn't pertain just to Windows, but to its full product portfolio, although Windows is by far Microsoft's dominant product.

Long after Vista's release, Microsoft crowed about it breaking existing Windows sales records, but the reality is that many consumers bought Vista PCs and used downgrade rights to switch over to XP. Many businesses opted to avoid Vista altogether to wait for whatever came next, and even volume licensing customers gave Vista a miss.

"A lot of the issues with Vista were overblown, but from a customer satisfaction standpoint, Vista didn't offer people enough benefits to overcome the stuff that drove them crazy," said Todd Swank, vice president of marketing at system builder Nor-Tech, Burnsville, Minn.

Nonetheless, Swank and other Microsoft solution providers agree with the ACSI's assessment of Windows 7. Larry Piland, president of Datel Systems, a San Diego, Calif.-based solution provider, says customers that skipped Vista are now switching from XP to Windows 7, and they're encountering few problems along the way.

"We are finally seeing those organizations that would not upgrade to Vista migrating over to Windows 7," said Piland. "Microsoft once again has a fairly happy user base, and even Microsoft haters are finding it hard to criticize the product."

Industry pundits that claimed Vista would leave an indelible mark on Microsoft's reputation perhaps didn't consider that in the software business, a company is only as good -- or as bad -- as its latest product release. Unloved software just doesn't provide an ever-present, tangible reminder of one's faulty buying decision.

Even people that still poke fun at Windows ME, probably Microsoft's worst product release prior to Vista, have pretty much forgotten how annoying it was.

"The software world is one where you can recover more quickly than in other industries, perhaps, by releasing better software quickly," VanAmburg said. "Your chances of rebounding and having better overall customer satisfaction is better."

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