April 14 2008

Windows Vista: Who Will Save Us From You?

Windows Vista LogoMy ever so-secretive friend, known only as “M” round these parts, called me from her super secret lair, high in the mountains of Transylvania today… with yet another tale of woe in regards to her laptop that sports the evil known as “Vista“.

Less than a year ago she needed to replace her aging Sony Vaio, found a good deal on an HP, but, alas it sported Windows 6 AKA Vista. Biting the bullet, she took the plunge and… regrets every minute of it. It runs slow… it crashes… if it sits idle too long, it tells her she improperly shut down, and, worst of the worst, today it ate her paper that was due in hours. She purchased it from Staples near her old apartment (somewhere in the Himalayas, I think), and swung by another branch closer to her current abode. Immediately upon telling the tech desk that her computer was being naughty, they replied with, “Is it running Vista?”

Is this a good sign for an operating system that spent five years in development? If tech people are rolling their eyes at the latest iteration of the venerable Windows brand, shouldn’t this tell Microsoft that they got it wrong? Not just wrong, but horribly wrong?

Already Microsoft has answered one consumer outcry for an extension of Windows XP sales, but that new date is quickly approaching (June 30th), and people are again crying out for it to not go away. You would think Microsoft might realize that this really is what consumers want when they have even caved to the idea of releasing Service Pack 3 for a six year old operating system. Consumers want XP… why not give it to us?

Microsoft blew it, and they blew it in such a monumental way that I am not even sure there is anything to compare it to. Many people bring up the disaster that was Windows ME, but it was always meant as a bridge between Windows 98 and XP, it was fairly well known it wasn’t a fully realized OS. The difference with Vista was it was supposedly the be-all, end-all of the Windows universe. XP was to be immediately forgotten and everyone would, once again, flock to the loving arms of Microsoft and embrace the latest release as the second coming to the computer world!

Vista Tech SupportInstead we got a resource hogging, sluggish pile of trash, foisted off on to the unsuspecting public that now leads tech support guys to ask, “Is it running Vista?”

I can understand why Microsoft doesn’t come out and just say, “Our bad, hold off until Windows 7 due in 2010!”, but to kill off XP, which, despite its flaws, actually works, is just wrong. As of July 1st you will have a minimum of 18-months of sales of nothing but Vista on new computers, and, to me, that borders on criminal. Mind you, that is 18-months MINIMUM, knowing Microsoft and their delays, it will probably be years.

If Steve Jobs was smart… well, smarter than he is… he would come out with some “Introductory Macs” right now. Yes, the Mac Mini is “affordable”, but it is somewhat underpowered compared to the PC market, and at a starting price of $599 with no keyboard, mouse, or monitor, it still seems high to the average consumer. If he was to strike during these proposed “Vista Only” months with a Mac that anyone could afford and get behind, the market share for Apple would sky rocket, giving Microsoft the kick to the teeth they so richly deserve for this debacle.

(Before anyone even says it, no, Linux is not an option here. Linux is cute, and a great boon to the homebrew PC crowd, but it is not ready for mass sales of this scale)

Do I think Jobs will do this? Unlikely. He likes his luxury/elitist image of Apple products. Heck, I would love to jump to MacBook Pro, but starting at $2,000, it’s not happening. And that’s where this all comes back around to my recent laptop hunt. I’m ready to buy, and I am going PC again, and I am going XP again. How sad is that? I’m one of those supposed “early adopters”, someone who lives on the forefront of the tech scene, and I’m going to buy a new computer… with a six-year-old operating system. Even I have to give myself an “Extreme FAIL” award for that one.

So, what’s it going to be Microsoft? Will you allow XP to live on, offering the computer world a minor olive branch to somewhat offset your follies? Or will you continue down this road of peril, possibly causing people to either switch to Mac, or using rapidly aging equipment, hurting the sales of equipment manufacturers? Microsoft has the ball firmly in their court, let’s see if they serve it wisely.

In the meantime, I know one Vista user who would like to shove her laptop firmly where sun doesn’t shine of one Mr. Bill Gates.

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