Today and tomorrow are filled with Microsoft events hyping tomorrow’s launch of the consumer versions of Microsoft’s new PC operating system, Windows Vista. Below is a roundup of reviews, but while the words are different, the tune is the same: You won’t mind Vista when you get it on the next new PC you buy, but there’s no reason to consider installing it as an upgrade on a machine currently running Windows XP.
Windows Vista is essentially warmed-over Windows XP. If you’re currently happy with Windows XP SP2, we see no compelling reason to upgrade. On the other hand, if you need a new computer right now, Windows Vista is stable enough for everyday use.
For most people buying a new PC after Monday, getting a Windows PC will mean getting a Vista PC; there’s no choice to be made. And there need be nothing wrong in that case — on a computer with enough memory and processing power, Vista clearly exceeds XP.
But for most people with older machines, Vista demands too much to justify its benefits. If you fall into that category, you’re better off upgrading XP by adding third-party programs — for instance, Google Desktop, the Firefox Web browser, Thunderbird mail program and the Picasa photo album — to paper over XP’s deficiencies. Wait for Microsoft to fix the inevitable bugs in Vista and for Windows developers to rewrite their software to work better in Vista.
Then, if you’re both patient and lucky, by the time you’re ready for a new computer, Vista will be ready for you.
Vista is good, but I still question whether it’s worth nearly $160 plus the cost of any hardware upgrades for anyone but those early adapters who love to live on the bleeding edge of technology. For most people, the best way to get Vista is to get it the next time they buy a PC.
It has taken the giant software maker more than five years to replace Windows XP with this new version, called Windows Vista — an eternity by computer-industry reckoning. Many of the boldest plans for Vista were discarded in that lengthy process, and what’s left is a worthy, but largely unexciting, product.
Gradually, all Windows computers will be Vista computers, and that’s a good thing, if only for security reasons. But you may want to keep your older Windows XP box around awhile longer, until you can afford new hardware that can handle Vista.
According to a SoftChoice survey, in fact, only 6 percent of existing corporate PCs have enough muscle to run all of Vista’s goodies. No wonder Microsoft expects that only about 5 percent of PC users will upgrade their existing computers to Vista.
Online, there’s much talk of Vista’s place in the universe. Is it too little, too late? Does the Mac’s uptick in market share threaten the dominance of Windows? Does Web-based software make operating systems obsolete?
None of the above. Windows isn’t going anywhere, the landscape won’t be changing anytime soon, and the corporate world will still buy it 500 copies at a time.
In other words, it doesn’t matter what you (or tech reviewers) think of Windows Vista; sooner or later, it’s what most people will have on their PCs. In that light, it’s fortunate that Vista is better looking, better designed and better insulated against the annoyances of the Internet. At the very least, it’s well equipped to pull the world’s PCs along for the next five years — or whenever the next version of Windows drops down the chimney.