Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Every 10 PCs migrated to Vista = one car off the road

“Every 10 PCs migrated to Windows Vista is equivalent to taking one car off the road in terms of greenhouse gasses” (Windows Vista Energy Conservation - http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/windowsvista/enterprise/vistafacts/default.mspx).

This got my attention fast – consider the number of PCs in use and just imagine the impact this could have! I decided to dig deeper and inform myself so that I could potentially become an advocate of this cause – after all I would much rather convert my PCs to Vista than give up driving my car to save the environment (well, as the melting of the arctic ice continues we may have to soon give up the car and much more but if there is anything that would help us postpone that I am all for it).

As I started reading the paper the first thing that struck me was the disclaimer section which in essence says “if you believe anything we say here don’t blame us it’s your own fault” – I found this a bit discouraging but given that nowadays everybody and their uncle seems to have some claim against Microsoft I thought that this was the prudent thing for them to do and continued reading the paper.

So, what did the paper tell me? It told me that yes, potentially, assuming your PC stays on for 24 hours with neither the monitor nor the PC ever being turned off or going to “sleep mode” then yes the energy savings you could realize by either turning the PC off for the 16 hours you don’t use it or by replacing the operating system with Windows Vista, which by default will make the PC go to sleep mode when not in use, are significant. Based on published and accepted averages the carbon dioxide (CO2) you would keep off the atmosphere is about 1,178 lb which is the equivalent of about 10% of the CO2 emitted by an average car on one year. So, yes with those calculations 10 PCs converted to Vista equal one average car off the road. But, is the scenario considered in these calculations realistic? Absolutely not! Even in enterprises where the employees maybe instructed to leave their machines on so that they are available for software installs, patching and remote access the monitors are likely set to go to sleep mode so that alone removes a good portion of the presumed savings. Furthermore, what’s really critical to remember is that Windows Vista may make realizing energy savings easier and more convenient but those potential savings are available and can be realized without having to upgrade to Windows Vista.

Please note that this is not a case against upgrading to Windows Vista – the reasons for upgrading are abundant in many scenarios – but it is rather taking aim at bold and not always well founded marketing claims.

Is this smart marketing? I would say yes, in a World that is becoming more and more aware of the environment a claim like this has a high chance of getting the attention of the potential customers – it certainly worked on me.

Does it work beyond getting attention? The answer to this is a bit more complicated. While it may sometimes backfire, often it works. Here is why. For a mid level manager that is trying to make the case for upgrading, such claims made by reputable companies are a huge help. These managers don’t need convincing for themselves - they may have a lot of other, well founded but hard to explain to upper management, reasons for upgrading; what they need is ammunition that will help make their case a simple no-brainer and such claims give them exactly that ammunition.

Is it ethical? If the claim was false then this wouldn’t be a question but it is not false. I think the ground is a bit shaky here and so is my answer. To be completely on the safe side the statements should highlight the average scenario instead of the extremes but I can't quite say it is unethical to highlight the extremes.

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