Windows Vista's Prematurely Reported Death

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Print this article Print

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

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 center 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?


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It'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 summarizes 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.

Frank Ohlhorst is senior technology editor at Channel Insider.

Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at frank.ohlhorst@ziffdavisenterprise.com