Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Windows Vista Drops...And A Collective "So What?" Rises From The Masses

Microsoft's new operating system, the long-awaited Windows Vista, went on sale today in the U.S. In fact, it went on sale at midnight, so all the MS fans clamouring for a new OS could get their groove on as soon as possible. But what's so great about Microsoft's shiny new OS anyway? Can it make you coffee? Can it do the laundry? Okay, maybe those are unreasonable standards. But seriously - what's so special about Vista?

Let's focus first on the things that Vista does right:

  1. Improved searching. This is something that computer users have been requesting for some time. The old Windows search was slow and frustrating at best, and the new model is a big step forward. Unfortunately, this system relies on indexing and a series of meta tags, since the new file system was dropped from the Vista feature list early on.
  2. Revised GUI. This may not be a positive to some. While the new interface, called Aero, is nice (it's the shiny part of "shiny" and "new"), many claim that it's still not as slick as Mac's OS X. Personally, I'm no Mac fan, and I think the new look is pretty snazzy. Too bad they screwed up the Start menu.
  3. All new packaging. Okay, maybe that's the end of this list...

There are certainly a few more items we could have included, but there's a reason they're not listed. More on that later. For now, let's move on to the minuses of the new OS:

  1. High price. As usual, the price of the OS has gone up, with the full version of Vista Ultimate Edition (the top offering) retailing for $399. A savvy consumer could actually put together a decent PC for that money. Unfortunately, that PC wouldn't take advantage of one of the systems top selling points. Which leads us to:
  2. Heavy system requirements for the new GUI. Unless your PC was a high-end model purchased within the past year or so, it probably won't be able to display the new Aero interface. That doesn't mean that Vista won't run - it will. It will just look exactly like XP.
  3. Tougher DRM. This newest version of Windows has tougher DRM built right into the very core, to satisfy Hollywood and the music industry. What does that mean for the average consumer? Well, it depends on what you use your PC for. But, it's fairly certain that Vista will not make your experiences with purchasing and using music and movies online any easier.
  4. Too many versions. There are now more flavors of Windows to choose from than ever, which is sure to make things more challenging for the average consumer. Many consumers will end up buying one of the cheaper versions, only to realize that they'll have to pay more for a feature they thought was included.

Now before I get any hate comments, don't get me wrong - Vista is a decent OS. In fact, it's probably the best OS Microsoft has ever delivered. It's just that the upgrades aren't really that revolutionary - they're simply evolutionary. This is why the positives list was cut short. A lot of the items touted for Vista can already be done in XP.

Will the new OS be a success? Undoubtedly. The vast majority of consumer PCs sold from this point on will have Vista, so market penetration will not be an issue. But should you go out and upgrade? Well, unless you're one of those people that has to be the first on the block to have something, the answer is no. My advice is stick with XP, at least until the first Vista service pack is released. But even then, your money is probably better spent elsewhere.

And hey, don't worry - a newer version of Windows will be coming soon. Microsoft has pledged to deliver newer OSes on a faster schedule, to ensure that you, the consumer, have more chances than ever to be parted from your hard-earned money. Kudos to you, Microsoft - where would we be without you...

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