Some Microsoft researchers recently carried out an interesting experiment. They started with end users who had no firsthand experience with Windows Vista, but who had a strongly negative opinion of it based on what they had heard about it. The researchers then demonstrated “the next Microsoft operating system”, codenamed Windows Mojave, for these people. Almost all of these people rated Mojave much higher ratings than Vista, and a fifth of them rated Mojave 10 out of 10.

Then the researchers revealed that Mojave is Vista.

This certainly demonstrates that end users should try Vista for themselves instead of shunning it based on secondhand information. But I think it also has wider implications about the power of propaganda. Vista has certainly had some problems, as all new operating systems do in their first release, but it has also been the target of a rather determined FUD campaign by Microsoft’s competitors and the media (who are always eager to predict imminent disaster because it boosts their sales). This smear campaign has been quite successful in strangling Vista in its crib by discouraging adoption of the new OS by pretty much anyone who wasn’t getting it automatically with a new computer (and even some of the people who were).

The anti-Vista campaign reminds me of some of the other media smear efforts we’ve witnessed this year. It’s disturbing to see how effective this kind of tactic can be. Propaganda works.

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