Gartner Report Inaccurate: Microsoft Exec

by Hinesh Jethwani    Oct 04, 2004

In a CXOtoday exclusive, Microsoft India’s business group head disputes Gartner’s critical review of the Redmond giant’s cheapest OS till date — Windows XP Starter Edition.

Speaking to CXOtoday, Rishi Srivastava, business group head, Microsoft India, said, “Some of the points mentioned in the Gartner release on Windows XP SE are not based on any research at all. The report is both inaccurate and erroneous. These are just personal comments made by an analyst. We have done significant research on the subject by surveying 1,000 households across five countries participating in the pilot program. In my personal opinion, the report is just a red herring, and we have the real facts.”

“We have explicitly stated that the product is meant for “first time users” only. The way we have positioned Windows XP SE proves exactly that - the product will not retail at all; it will only be available as an embedded offering in new machines from OEMs across the country. So I don’t understand what Gartner means by stating, ’Enterprises shouldn’t consider this offering’. Its tailor made for developing countries and perfect for a country like India, where the PC penetration is lower than 2%,” he added.

However, that’s exactly what Gartner identifies as an erroneous strategy. XPSE would have better met user needs if it had focused on first-time owners, rather than first-time users, claims Analyst G. Many families don’t own a PC but include people who already know basic PC use from cybercafes and schools. XPSE is likely to frustrate these users, because it will not deliver the same quality of experience with which they are familiar, quoted the research exec at Gartner.

According to Microsoft India, approximately 200 Indian households have voluntarily participated in the beta testing project that has been initiated in all five countries included in the pilot program. “We have collected tremendous feedback from these 200-odd households in India, and they particularly appreciate our localization effort, the ’my support’ module and our video tutorials — all included in XP SE,” explained Srivastava.

But what about the feature limitations that Gartner has identified as three key weaknesses of XP SE? “These so-called feature limitations are actually confusion limiters, designed especially to reduce the frustration often experienced by first time users who do not like to operate with multiple windows open on their desktops,” replied Srivastava.

Can a similar low cost version for enterprises curtail the rampant piracy rate prevalent in the Indian SMB space?

“Never. In fact, even XP SE can be pirated for that matter. As long as there is a way to pirate software, the problem will continue to exist. Dropping prices will not help at all,” he claimed.

And what about the threat by Linux desktops? Price conscious buyers would still prefer a free OS rather than a cheap one. Right?

“Home users, especially the first time kind, simply do not have the ability to download Open Source code and work on it. This is not an issue at all,” replied a very confident Srivastava.

Although Microsoft India hasn’t publicly confirmed the date of release yet, it will be most probably early 2005. The impact of the offering on PC penetration is a tale that only time can tell.