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An open letter to Microsoft's next CEO: 12 wishes from the Windows faithful

Woody Leonhard | Jan. 28, 2014
We billion-plus customers would like the next head honcho in Redmond to address these dozen action items.

While the world waits for that puff of white smoke and the announcement of a new Defender of the Windows faith, I wanted to take a few minutes of your time and explain how things really look from the trenches.

No, I'm not going to tell you how to run a bazillion-dollar company with 130,000 employees and a bewildering array of products. You have enough folks with green eyeshades running around already — no doubt with a nasty propensity to tell you, "Yes, sir!"

I just want to talk about customers, especially Windows customers. If you can keep us in the fold, we can help you out of this fine mess Microsoft seems to have gotten itself into.

Microsoft action item No. 1: Fix the branding
Microsoft's branding runs all over the map, and it's been abysmal for decades. Where else can you buy a version of Windows that doesn't run Windows programs?

Microsoft threw away the name "Hotmail" — one of the most recognized brands in the world. Instead, we got another Outlook:, which is completely different from Outlook, in all of its myriad versions, and different again from Outlook Express or Outlook Web Access. Then there's Windows Mail (two completely different versions) and Windows Live Mail (part of Windows Live Essentials — or is it just Windows Essentials?). That's just a tiny part of the branding inanity.

Please give us names that make sense, so we can make sense of what you are doing and how best to make use of your services. Once you've chosen a name, stick to it.

And at least give us an alternative to "Metro." You've been dancing around the "Modern UI," er, "New User Interface," uh, "Windows Store Apps"/"Microsoft Design Language" bafflegab for more than a year. Kill it, definitively, and move on.

Yes, even if you choose "Mod." Ugh.

Microsoft action item No. 2: Simplify, simplify, simplify
Quick, off the top of your head: How many different versions of Office 365 are available? If you include the stand-alone cloud servers — such as Exchange — what's your count up to?

Tell the truth. Have you ever tried to negotiate the Microsoft Volume Licensing website? I think it's fair to say that Microsoft licensing rivals the U.S. Tax Code in complexity — and self-serving stupidity.

All right, if you have a post-graduate degree in Microsoft Licensology, answer me this: How many different email programs has Microsoft shipped recently? If you can answer that, tell me why?

Byzantine licensing requirements only drive customers away, and complicated product sets do nothing to increase your profits. KISS.

Microsoft action item No. 3: Earn our trust
Those Scroogled ads make the general public believe that Microsoft's better than Google at protecting privacy.


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