Microsoft Vista: The ‘wow’ is not yet

8 Feb

February 8, 2007

By Geoff Meeker 

The tech world is abuzz about the release of Vista, the latest operating system software from Microsoft.

It’s the first major upgrade since Windows XP in 2001, and the first complete overhaul of the system since 1995.  The Windows Vista home page declares that Vista is “easier, safer, more entertaining and better connected.”

All of these things are true, based on the webcast of the launch, which you can view at the Microsoft web site. It is more user-friendly, with more intuitive interfaces, including a flip 3-D feature that allows you to graphically thumb through all open windows like a deck of cards. “Safer” means that security issues have supposedly been addressed, to which I say about bloody time. “More entertaining” means it is now easier to manage digital content like photos, movies and music. The “better connected” refers to enhanced wireless and networking capabilities, which is a necessity, not an innovation.

Microsoft’s tagline for this release is “The Wow Is Now”. Having perused numerous reviews and articles, I have concluded that the wow is “not yet”. In a nutshell, this release is evolutionary, not revolutionary.

I am a Mac user but I do have a PC laptop, to prevent platform issues when working with clients. The Mac user in me is cynical about the ease of use, connectivity and media management aspects, which have been present in the Mac OSX system for some time. Microsoft claims to be an innovation leader but the fact is, they are playing catch-up.

The PC user in me likes some of the new features in Vista, but is not convinced that it warrants the price of an upgrade, which ranges from about $120 for “Basic” to $300 for “Ultimate”. A Google search turned up numerous reviews, and if you are considering buying this package, I encourage you to do similar research. (Ironically, Microsoft recently got in hot water for attempting to pay for changes to text in Wikipedia, one of my sources for this article.)

The consensus – broad though not quite unanimous – is that there are not enough features in Vista to warrant buying the software new, if you are already running Windows XP.  The graphical interfaces are quite nice and in some cases go one better than the Mac OS, but experts say they don’t warrant the hype… or cost of an upgrade. As for enhanced security, the techies who obsess about this sort of things are saying ‘wait and see’, suspicious abut Microsoft’s poor track record in this area.

According to several items I read, Vista’s more advanced features will only work on computers with a minimum of 1GB of RAM and a high performance graphics card, features you will likely only find on late model computers. Make doubly sure that it will work on your PC before investing in even a basic upgrade.

Finally, the folks over at Apple have raised a red flag of their own. They have cautioned that Vista may have some compatibility problems with iPod and iTunes, which in certain cases can even corrupt the iPod. The problem is apparently already being addressed and Microsoft will be issuing a corrective patch in the next little while. Still, it is a development that Microsoft didn’t need, given the tens of millions of iPod users out there.

There is nothing inherently wrong with Windows XP so, unless you really want the new Vista features, I suggest saving your money for now. Most of the big name computer manufacturers are already bundling Vista into their products, so you are likely to get at least the basic version if you purchase a new PC. This, I submit, is the best way to get it.



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