I’ve been in an abusive relationship for the past 15 years. Its a relationship where I’ve given, and the other side just takes, takes, and takes.
I’ve stayed in this relationship all this time because getting out seemed so difficult and complicated. Where would I go instead? What if a new relationship doesn’t work out?
Well I finally got fed up last week, decided to get out no matter the cost, and finally ended a relationship that should have been ended years ago.
Yes, after 15 years, I finally decided to dump Microsoft Windows and switch to a Mac.
I ultimately got sick and tired of Microsoft continually doing things not in my best interests as a customer.
Its is this attitude more than anything that I’m fed up with.
Let me give you some examples and also to explain why this kind of attitude towards customers is bad for business – whether that’s Microsoft’s business or your business.
First let’s talk about Windows Vista. It’s so slow.
Rather than creating an easier to use, faster, more efficient version of Windows, Microsoft got sloppy.
They assumed everyone would run out and buy a new computer with powerful hardware just so they can run Windows Vista and do pretty much what they were already doing in prior versions of Windows.
The problem is so bad that Dell no longer sells Vista as the default operating system on its new PC’s – it includes Windows XP instead.
That’s a pretty sad statement when you spend billions on R&D and your customers and partners choose your old products vs. your new ones.
I originally thought this was just an isolated incident.
But the more I looked into it, the more I realized this was a pattern.
For example, in considering the move to the Mac, I looked at reviews of Microsoft Office 2008 for the Mac.
I found a tons of complaints from Microsoft Excel users that certain capabilities that were in the 2004 version have been removed from the 2008 version. Yes, upgrade to 2008 version and get less than what you had in 2004 version.
A number of folks promptly downgraded to the older, more capable version.
It just defies common sense to expect customers to give you more money every few years, in exchange for giving them a product that gets worse and worse. It seems totally backwards to me.
Given the strategy of giving less and less, while asking for more and more doesn’t seem to work very well. Here’s the latest tactic.
About a year ago, I started getting Word documents from my clients in .docx format.
It was a format I had never seen before. I figured is must have something to do with Microsoft Word and its familiar .doc format.
It turns out it was the format that the latest version of Microsoft Word saves files in – the only problem is older versions of Microsoft Word can’t read it.
Of course, this prompts people like me to consider upgrading for no reason other than I can’t conveniently read clients fro other people.
Never mind the fact that the new version of Microsoft Word doesn’t do anything that my old one doesn’t – at least in terms of what I use it for.
Basically, Microsoft was having difficulty getting people to upgrade to newer versions of their products, so they deliberately engineered a compatibility problem which could be solved, by guess what, spending more money with Microsoft.
So at time when they can’t seem to earn money by solving customer problems better, Microsoft seems to have resorted to inventing customer problems that can be solved by spending more with Microsoft.
This more than anything was the deal breaker for me. It irritates me to no end to financially reward a company that engages in this behavior and that creates software that is frankly sloppy.
This was the “stick” that prompted my decision.
As for the “carrot”, I found a number of my clients were heavy Mac users. They weren’t just Mac users, they were all former PC users. And now they were the raving Mac fans you hear about.
Isn’t it interesting that you can’t find any “raving fans” about Microsoft?
I mean people use Microsoft products, but rarely does anyone just LOVE Microsoft stuff… I mean when was the last time you heard someone gush in their praise of Microsoft?
So I ended up getting a MacBook Pro… and you know what was the tipping point for me?
The incredibly level of thoughtfulness that Apple put into the design of the laptop battery… yes the battery!
You see most laptop batteries are a series of high end AA size batteries that are stacked together end to end and wrapped into the square or rectangular size battery you see for most batteries.
Imagine taking an 8 pack of AA batteries from the store, wiring together the batteries, and then wrapping a square plastic case around it, and you’ll see what I mean.
This is industry practice because it’s cheap and easy to manufacture from existing, widely available parts.
But from Apple’s perspective, it’s a very inefficient battery design. By putting a bunch of round cylindrical batteries into a rectangular case, there’s a lot of empty space between the batteries that goes unused.
Imagine opening that 8 pack of AA batteries, and pouring sugar into the little spaces between the batteries and the edge of the plastic packaging. Everywhere the sugar falls is “empty space.”
So Apple engineers did custom design work to develop square batteries that uses every little nook and cranny of the battery case. So in the same space, there is nearly double the electrical storage vs. a comparable size conventional laptop battery.
The end result?
Battery life of up to 8 hours on my MacBook Pro. A serious improvement from the 2 – 3 hours on my old Dell laptop.
The easy route would have been to just follow the industry standard. But the fact that Apple took the considerable effort to make a better product (even though they could have gotten away with doing less), really impressed me.
I figure if they’re going to be that obsessive about the battery, they’re probably equally obsessive about a million other little things.
Given the chance, Apple seems to very consistently strive to exceed expectations. In comparison, the Microsoft approach seems to be focused finding creative ways to get away with doing less and less.
So what’s the business lesson in all this?
Well, I think anyone can get away with taking short cuts with customers temporarily.
And in Microsoft’s case, given the unique traits of the technology industry and the importance of compatibility (which tends to favor creating industry giants), Microsoft may continue to get away with it for quite some time.
But, there are cracks starting to appear in Microsoft’s armor. Apple market share in the PC market has been steadily climbing. Microsoft is getting creamed online by Google (who takes Apple’s approach of exceeding expectations and has executed it incredibly well online).
For the average business owner like you and me, it’s a very dangerous thing for customers to merely “tolerate” doing business with you. It breeds complacency and an entitlement attitude. And that’s a very slippery slope.
And it is precisely in times of a recession where people on slippery slopes get exposed.
You can hide fundamental problems in your business in a boom economy.
But in a down economy, all those problems get exposed.
I have no problems with giving Microsoft or any other company money. I just expect them to earn it.
That used to be too much to ask, but now I realize it’s NOT too much to ask… and that’s why I made my switch.
Here’s my question for you.
Do you run your business more like Microsoft or more like Apple?
Are you doing as little as possible deliver your customers value? Or are you actively finding ways to truly, deeply make their lives better?