Microsoft’s EU hearing began in Luxembourg yesterday and things went as expected. The software company’s lawyers claimed that the ruling was flawed, which came as no surprise. What did interest me was the use of figures about the sales of Windows XP Home Edition N, the without media player package they have been forced to introduce in Europe.
Under 2,000 units have been bought as opposed to 35m packages with media player. Microsoft’s lawyers argued; “The failure to offer a product that nobody wants cannot be an abuse.”
Surely these figures show a much deeper situation that is conveniently ignored and relates to working practices and public perception.
When buying a PC, 90% of people are offered the Window’s operating system. Since January, have they all been given the option of Edition N? Moreover we don’t know whether sales people see it as a product worth promoting. Why offer the reduced version rather than the one with ‘extras.’
For those a little more computer savvy it still comes down to an attitude to technology. If Window’s Media Player has worked for you, why change it. Internet culture is based on convenience and efficiency and the maxim ‘better the devil’ often applies. Human nature means we get comfortable with one way of doing things and wont change unless it’s very easy or is forced upon us.
While Microsoft fights this case, it doesn’t have to reveal any source code – the same code that will make it easier for competitiors to develop media players as easy to use in Window’s as Microsoft’s own. In the meantime, users will continue to take the easiest option.
Window’s is not just software, it’s routine, it’s convenience and it’s such a part of daily life that it requires a massive shift in user habit to imagine it as a less dominant part of the computer experience. This is why the sales figures shouldn’t surprise and why they are unreliable in Microsoft’s defence.