Dear Whomever at Microsoft is responsible for determining requirements for OEM recovery system distribution:
I trust that you follow the blogosphere (as mandated by Robert Scoble) and the myriad of complaints about the difficulty owners have with recovering from various problems that Windows XP creates for Tablet PC owners. Eric Mack has detailed on his blog his problems with an operating system failure while travelling and his inability to recover from the problem. This letter is not about Eric Mack as similar problems are encountered by hundreds if not thousands of Tablet PC owners all the time. The heart of the problem has a simple solution that only you, Microsoft, can address and rather easily.
Microsoft Windows XP Professional Tablet PC Edition 2005 is considered a premium operating system. That simple designation is the crux of the problem that makes recovery from operating system failures very difficult for Tablet PC owners. Somewhere along the line someone at Microsoft decided that the Tablet Edition is a premium operating system so access to the actual operating system CDs should be restricted. The only entities that can get their hands on this vital tool for recovering from problems are OEMs and software developers who have a valid MSDN license. This means the only group that cannot get their hands on the means to easily recover from operating system problems are end users. End users are the ones who purchase Tablet PCs. It doesn’t take a big jump to realize that end users do not have the ability to affect simple recovery from these types of problems and the reason is the lack of Microsoft directives to OEMs to supply this tool. In fact, I suspect it’s even worse than that and that MS has in fact restricted OEMs from distributing a set of Windows XP Tablet Edition install sets to end users.
Please understand one simple fact– wiping your Tablet PC clean and starting over from scratch every time you have an operating system problem is just not acceptable to the end user. Why should a user with a duly licensed copy of the OS be confronted with starting over every time there is a problem? This is a constant source of frustration that owners feel with both MS and the Tablet PC and is enough of a hassle to cause Tablet owners to turn to something else the next time they are in the mood to purchase a replacement computer. While they may cite the OEM as the source of the frustration you, Microsoft, are in the position to correct this if you would, and you are the ulitmate losers when your platform is abandoned.
Some OEMs ship recovery CDs with the Tablet PC so owners at least have the avenue open to wipe their system clean and starting over when they have a problem. As previously mentioned, this is not a real solution to anything but at least the option exists. Other OEMs don’t ship any media at all so the end user either must purchase a set of CDs or run a system utility on the Tablet to create them on their own. The main problem with this is that many Tablet PCs don’t ship with optical drives. For these Tablet PC owners they can’t even make a set of recovery CDs which will only enable them to wipe their system disk clean and start over which is not a reasonable solution to begin with.
I have heard from numerous end users who have typical Windows XP problems such as an OS file gets corrupted and they cannot recover from it. What is the purpose of putting such roadblocks in the way of end users who are having a problem with your product and then making a radical solution the only way out? The OEM is not going to be blamed for this, only Microsoft. Every time.
You can eliminate this problem by mandating as part of the OEM licensing agreement that regular Windows media must be supplied with all Tablet PCs. Not just recovery media because in many cases these are overkill and just foment frustration for the owner with a valid license. If you are determined to continue the policy that the Tablet Edition is just too “premium” to allow customers to obtain then at least mandate that OEMs must supply those recovery CDs. These would go a long way to help out your customers in the time they need it most– system failure.
The ineffectiveness of the current OS supply situation was something I was hoping would be addressed in the upcoming WindowsVista as early indications from various teams at MS made public statements that the Tablet functionality would be rolled into the core of WV. Steve Ballmer’s most recent public comments that the Tablet Edition would still be a premium version of WV were not what we Tablet owners wanted to hear as it implies the current unacceptable recovery situation will likely continue far into the future. Come on, we are a loyal user base who are being hammered by this ridiculous situation and only you can fix it. We are counting on you. Thanks.