Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The woes and troubles of the operating system,
Or to keep Windows XP against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing Vista? To die: to sleep
I paraphrase the Bard because a friend of mine had me thinking. My friend is a theater director so the answer above is in a language he might understand. The question he asked me was what to do when buying a new computer. He said, “Well, we know Vista sucks. But does Microsoft have another operating system on the way?”
The truth is that Vista hasn’t been terribly popular. It isn’t the smash hit that Microsoft expected. As a home office worker I’m still relying on Windows XP. The question to V(ista) or not to V(ista) keeps coming up for me in no small part because I also need to upgrade my aging computers. Numerous friends and colleagues ask me and the answer I give is to go with Vista when you buy a new PC.
Of course I’m not sure I’m going to listen to my own advice. I personally have concerns about Vista, notably the compatibility issue with some programs. While most of the problems with Quark, Photoshop and other non-Microsoft-published applications have been resolved, I need to be 100% sure I can hit the ground running and not worry that a problem might not be compatible.
Likewise, I’m on the fence with Vista as a small office/home office user because I’m worried about the learning curve. I’m a busy guy with deadlines, projects and other stuff. I don’t need to “learn” a new operating system… not when what I have already works so well. I’m not a Luddite, and I like to embrace new technology but I don’t need to change just because some software designer decides I should.
And this is the problem with any significant new OS. Some engineers and designers think the new way is the better way… but I was never even asked if I wanted to change! In truth, I’m still using the “Windows Classic” style view that dates back to Windows 95. It worked well enough for my needs. Why would I want to learn what I already knew how to do?
Actually I’ve been down this road before, and so has anyone who upgraded from Windows 95 to Windows 98 to Windows Millennium to Windows XP. Add in that Windows NT and Windows 2000, both did things differently, and chances are you’ve had to adapt before. But Windows Vista demands we do it again…and in ways that aren’t so familiar.
Additionally I’m not saying this as someone who won’t give change a chance either. I’ve played a bit with Vista, so I’ve had a chance to use it. But other than a fancier look I’m not sure what it really brings. This is actually hard for me to say too, but I’m not one of the Mac OS faithful. I despise the Mac interface… and while people may say it is easier or more intuitive than Windows, I find the Mac OS to be confusing and yet, too dumbed-down at the same time.
Another friend asked me, “why do they keep coming out with operating systems?” Well the answer is obvious! Microsoft is a software company. The company dominates the OS market, but attempts to branch into other areas have been hit or miss. While Microsoft practically owned the browser market for a while—taking on the original king of browsing Netscape—the company is seeing competition from Firefox. Likewise Microsoft is seeing its dominance in office applications such as Word in jeopardy as Google Docs continues to grow in popularity.
Even the OS market isn’t so solid. Apple is nibbling away at marketshare with its catchy marketing campaigns, and Linux is building momentum. So it is natural that Microsoft would want to hold on to its lead by bringing out a more powerful OS.
The other point is that we do need these technological leaps forward. Vista can do things that XP cannot. As I regularly cover the video game market, I had expected Vista to have been more embraced by gamers. The platform supports DirectX 10 graphics cards—something XP cannot do—and this is one reason why I go back to my original point of getting Vista when you get a new PC. I maintain getting a PC that has a DX10 chipset, and that going to Vista with only a DX9 graphics card makes less sense. Vista does add a gamer profile too, something I’ll talk more in the future.
But other than a few new bells and whistles the problem is that Vista isn’t what consumers or businesses seem to want. And to answer my friend’s first question: of course Microsoft doesn’t have another OS in the works, at least not to the stage where it would be ready to replace Vista anytime soon.
While Millennium was a minor disaster the OS was a stopgap until XP. But this time Vista is no stopgap. Unfortunately for Steve Ballmer and the gang at Microsoft it could end up just being a stop!