Matthew Powell: The Wow starts when?

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This article appeared in the 30 April, 2007 issue of CRN magazine.

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Matthew Powell: The Wow starts when?
What if they gave you a hypestorm and no-one came? That’s the question being asked by more than one technology marketer the past few months, as major hyped-up releases such as Windows Vista and the Sony PlayStation 3 have been met with shrugs from a jaded buying public.

In Sony’s case, it was almost predictable that there wouldn’t be a mad clamour for the game console. Between the fact that there were only 30 new games available at launch (each costing a hundred bucks after you’d thrown down a grand for the box itself), the paucity of Blu-ray Disc movies to take advantage of the PS3’s other big trick, and uncertainty about how well, if at all, the thing would play existing PS2 games, demand was muted. And did I mention it costs a thousand bucks?

What demand there was had been tempered by stores allowing people to pre-order the device as a way of stopping them buying competing machines from Nintendo or Microsoft. Apparently spending $1000 and walking out of a store with a promise of future delivery is gratifiying for hard-core gamers — this explains why I am not a hard-core gamer.

Anyway, by the time midnight launches of the box finally arrived, demand had basically been satisfied. There were no frenzied mobs of PS3 fans clamouring to be first to play Gran Turismo HD. There were even reports of radio station staff and Sony personnel cheering and yelling to make the midnight sales seem exciting. Sad.

More perplexing is the resounding thud with which Vista has hit. After the years of expectation and anticipation building, Microsoft had every reason to expect a repeat of the scenes that accompanied the release of Windows 95 back in, um, I can’t quite recall what year. If only the product’s name provided some clue …

But clamour came there none. The most breathlessly excited reports on Vista’s early sales said it was ‘within the company’s expectations”. That’s a lot further than you’d think from the company’s hopes.

And now Dell has announced that it is going to begin offering Windows XP again. It’s the first time I can remember a company agreeing to go back to selling a product it had discontinued since Coca-Cola Classic back in the 1980s. “The ‘New Coke’ of Operating Systems” is not exactly a tag Microsoft would have sought for its baby.

New Coke was the product of market research that indicated that, despite the greater popularity of Coke (in some markets it outsold Pepsi by more than 10 to one), most people actually preferred the taste of Pepsi. The company changed the formula, making Coke sweeter and more like its competitor.

The backlash caused such a dip in Coke’s sales that it lost its position as the number-one cola. Despite eventually regaining its lead, it had forever legitimised Pepsi as a serious competitor. Wow — the parallels with Windows just keep coming, don’t they?

Ah, there’s that wow.

Matthew JC. Powell enjoys Coke in moderation, exchange dental health tips at

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