Windows Vista’s Prematurely Reported Death

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While Vista bashing runs rampant, the truth about Microsoft’s beleaguered Windows operating system is buried behind the anti-hype.

The truth about Vista

Mark Twain said it best, following the premature publication of his obituary: “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

Microsoft can say the very same thing about Windows Vista. With rabid press and user misunderstandings, Vista has been given an undeservedly bad rap.

Everywhere you turn, you’ll see articles about how bad Vista, yet little supporting evidence to prove that assessment correct. It simply comes down to, “If you tell a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.” Of course, Microsoft has been little help in proving the merits of Vista—failed marketing campaigns, forced adoption and a general lack of momentum have held Vista back. Simply put, Microsoft has done more damage to Vista’s credibility than all of the anti-Vista blogs and press combined. That said, there is still a lot of weight behind opinion, and many confuse opinion with fact.

From my observations, most of the Vista detractors out there are frustrated home users and hobbyists who have not given Vista a fair chance, or, worse yet, have not even used the operating system. What’s more, many of the Mac fans who constantly deride Vista (and PCs in general) have never used the OS. Sure, there may be some legitimate reasons for not adopting Vista, such as that Windows XP (or whatever OS is being used) is good enough and meets the user’s needs. Other reasons centre around the costs involved for hardware and implementation. That said, there are still many objections to Vista that are unfounded or ill-reasoned at best.
Why don’t we take a closer look at those objections from the end-user community?

t’s somewhat true that Vista has extensive hardware requirements. But let’s be serious here. In the world of PCs, most users go to a new OS because of a change in hardware or the purchase of a new system—the pent-up demand driven by the so called “upgrader” doesn’t exist and probably never did, and people are confusing that with a lack of Vista technological advancements.

When people went from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95, the majority did so with new PCs, and the same can be said about the move from 95/98/2000 to XP. Why would we assume anything different with Vista? Once again, we can blame Microsoft marketing for pitching Vista as an upgrade and not a new OS.

One of the worst arguments going is that Vista is unstable. Vista is more stable than XP, and offers better recovery tools and expanded compatibility options. The real problem here is that the rest of the software and hardware community has been slow to update drivers and software to work with Vista. That is not really Microsoft’s fault, but the company can share some of the blame for not working with software and hardware vendors to encourage rapid development of drivers and software upgrades to fully leverage Vista’s capabilities.

Another argument is that Vista is expensive. For upgraders, that might be true. In reality, though, again, Vista should never have been pitched as an upgrade. If you buy a new PC, odds are that Vista is pre-installed and ready to go. Sure, you can save a few bucks by buying a custom PC without an OS—but you will need an OS eventually, and if you want to be compatible with the majority of the planet, you are going to need a Microsoft OS.

It’s pure hogwash that Vista is not secure. Installed and configured properly, Vista is much more secure than Windows XP or any previous version of Windows. Where that misconception comes from is that many users turn off the Vista security features or insist on using the OS with administrator privileges and then choose to ignore any warnings, opening up a whole world of security problems.

Simply put, if one puts aside the half-truths and the general misinformation, Vista starts to make a lot of sense for the desktop PC user.

While much of the above summarises how the end-user community has been misled, the enterprise is a different story altogether. That said, it doesn’t take an MBA to understand why Vista isn’t on every corporate desktop. It simply comes down to good business practices. Smart IT directors don’t change for the sake of change–that goes back to the age old axiom of SDLC (Systems Development Life Cycle), which was drilled into every computer science major’s head throughout college. SDLC embraces the concept that you do not replace a working system until the cost of maintaining it exceeds the cost to replace it. With SDLC in mind, it becomes clear why most enterprises have shunned Vista.

Enterprise IT managers also have to take into account hardware life cycles and depreciation. The market will not see an uptick in enterprise adoption of Vista until the next major corporate equipment replacement cycle takes hold. And there’s even a monkey wrench in the works for that scenario: XP is still available and supported.

Now, let me ask you this: If you are the harried IT director with hundreds of XP PCs, with deployment images ready to go and a fine-tuned support mechanism, along with a stable user environment, would you even consider change? Of course not; there has to be a compelling reason. And if your new PC purchases can run in your existing environment, why would you even consider changing? Add to that a recession and the formula rings true as to why XP still reigns supreme in the enterprise. But, clearly, it’s not due to any technical shortcomings of Vista or bad code.

The funny thing, though, is that Vista is easier to manage and support in a corporate environment and is more stable than XP, so for some there is reason to change. Part of the slow adoption can most likely be attributed to the anti-Vista buzz that overrides common-sense discussion.

Will any of this change? I doubt it. Will we see Vista adoption grow? I doubt that too. It’s clear that Microsoft is on the defensive and that the company is pinning its hopes on Windows 7 conquering the desktop. Even that, though, may be too little, too late to change the tide. Perhaps that’s why we are seeing Microsoft increasing its interest in cloud computing and hosted solutions, where it is sure to master the server side of the issue while selling services.

Which leads us to another reason why businesses have taken a wait-and-see approach on the desktop OS front: Many are considering the cloud to be the future, and they will move internal applications over to internally hosted AJAX applications. When that happens, the desktop will devolve into little more than a net-enabled PC that requires a minimal operating system. If Microsoft can master the cloud, the desktop OS becomes a moot point after all, and that will lead businesses to their next computing platform decisions.