Windows Vista’s Prematurely Reported Death

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.

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