Windows Confidential: Respect the brand

The Windows 95 10K Program goes on tour to promote Windows 95 (and silences an annoying IT guy).

Raymond Chen

During the development process for Windows 95, we set up what we called the 10K Program. This program sent select Windows 95 team members to a variety of mostly large companies.

The purpose was to introduce the OS that was then under development to the IT departments at those companies. They would show off the new features and demonstrate how it would boost employee productivity. Perhaps a more important purpose was for the Windows team members to learn about ways they could improve Windows 95 to make it easier for IT departments to deploy and manage within their organizations.

Instead of holding meetings or giving presentations, these 10K visits followed a highly practical format. They were set up like a pilot program. The IT departments would prepare for the visit by selecting a number of employees to participate. The 10K team would then walk through installing Windows 95 on their machines. Then they would boot up and see what happened.

Did they still have access to the corporate network? Did the company’s proprietary line-of-business (LOB) software still work? Could they still print their budget reports? Did Windows 95 make it easier to find and configure a color printer?

The 10K team would stay on-site for a few days to assist with initial deployment and observe the test subjects as they settled in with the new OS. Then they’d leave a set of installation CDs behind so the IT department could expand its testing after the team left.

Coke, no Pepsi

It was considered quite a privilege to be selected to go on one of these trips. Not only were you able to get out of the office for some travel, but you also got to spend time talking to actual customers about the project you’d been working on so hard for so long. The 10K Program members would follow up periodically after their site visits in order to get feedback on the OS after users spent more time with it and after the IT departments had an opportunity to test it more widely within their organization.

As you might imagine, these on-site visits provided extremely valuable feedback to the Windows 95 team. We learned about all sorts of unusual hardware, software, network and printer configurations, as well as learning about how people used Windows in their everyday work. The team members also got a chance to offer simple tips and tricks to the employees as they observed their work processes, often basic shortcuts such as, “Click the Printer icon on the toolbar if you want to print the document.”

The name 10K came from the ostensible target of upgrading 10,000 computers to Windows 95 through this program. I don’t know whether they actually hit the goal, but the number 10,000 was really just part of the name. The purpose of the program was not to hit the 10,000 target, but rather to introduce Windows 95 to the IT departments and return with valuable information. The number 10,000 was largely arbitrary.

One of these 10K visits was to the Coca-Cola Company. The 10K team was greeted by representatives from the IT department. They were chatting as they made their way through the lobby, down the hall, up the elevator, and then over to the lab rooms that had been set up. One of the IT people brandished an OS/2 CD and wouldn’t stop challenging the 10K team. “OS/2 this, OS/2 that, what do you think of this, how are you going to respond to that?”

Eventually, the 10K team leader politely made the following offer: “I’ll make you a deal. If you don’t talk about OS/2, then I won’t talk about Pepsi.” There was no mention of OS/2—or Pepsi—for the remainder of the visit.

Raymond Chen

Raymond Chen’s Web site, The Old New Thing, and identically titled book (Addison-Wesley, 2007) deal with Windows history, Win32 programming, and what computer programmers and fashion models have in common.