Breaking the Vista Customer Experience
Pito, you're dead right on this:
"I’ve written in the past that I thought at 60,000 feet, Microsoft Windows and Apple OS X are more or less the same in terms of ease of use. The one huge (and probably crucial) exception to this is the initial user experience. I can only imagine what my 80 year old father in law would do if he saw the screen as it looks ‘from the factory.’"
By "from the factory", Pito is referring to the OEM software crap that's added to machines over the OS - "Vonage this" and "AOL that" plus additional "added value software" that unquestionably degrades the initial out-of-the-box customer experience.
In my personal use experience, the number 1 example of this OEM "fiddling" is the crap that is laid over the default Windows wireless / hardware / software configruation. On three different laptops family members have bought in the last couple of years (XPs at the time), each had these "added value wireless configurators" - software that is meant to help you connect to wireless networks and manage those connections - but in fact does the complete opposite - they hinder the straightforward act of wireless network discovery and connection.
For those three laptops (2 Dells and an HP) my dad and siblings actually found it impossible to get a connection going to their home networks using the additional bundled wireless software that auto-runs on start-up. The wireless network they were connecting to were completely standard set-ups. Support was called and they couldn't help so suggested that the machines were taken back to the shop to figure out the problem. So fixed it. The solution? Each time I simply removed the OEM wireless-related software and restarted. The moment I did that, each machine's wireless connectivity "just worked".
Pathetic, and worse - uneccesary. This kind of crap customer experience is so damaging to the Windows perception. That's really got to annoy all those thousands of PMs, Devs, Test teams that slogged away for the last 5 years to get Vista right, only for it to be messed around with at the final shipping hurdle.
I haven't bought a Apple machine in years so I can't compare its initial customer experience with a new Windows machine, but I'd be happy to place a guessing bet on which is the better in the first 10 to 20 minutes of using the machine. Some might argue "but that's not Microsoft's fault!" - but the customer doesn't care about the why it is - they just experience the is.