I enjoy techie fights as much as anyone and this week we were treated to one on the subject of Microsoft’s upcoming client operating system, Windows Vista. Jason Cross led off at Extreme Tech with “Why Windows Vista Won’t Suck,” and Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols responded at Desktop Linux (also a teaser version at eWeek) with “Why Windows Vista Will Suck.” The argument has been picked up in various places on the Web and is, of course, the opening shot in a battle that will provide entertainment for some time to come.
However, as much as I enjoy the brawling, I am driven to suggest some more pragmatic considerations. In that regard, there are really two, and only two, meaningful questions:
Upside Question: Is Windows Vista so far from sucking that, in order to get it, significant numbers of customers will retire PC hardware early or try to upgrade the operating system on old hardware?
With due respect to Mr. Cross, there’s really nothing on his list of “cool” Vista features that is particularly compelling. Nice to have certainly, but which of the new features are going to stampede buyers into the stores? This has been the reaction to similar lists in the past (, ) and nothing has changed or is likely to change, so I believe the answer to this question is “No.”
Downside Question: Does Windows Vista suck so much that the normal flow of greater than 90% of all client PCs with Microsoft operating systems will be disrupted?
With due respect to Mr. Vaughan-Nichols, his argument that there’s “nothing that will make the still undelivered Vista significantly better than the Linux or the Mac OS X desktops” he has in front of him today won’t impact Vista sales in the slightest. More troubling is his observation, based on the latest CTP, that Vista is a hardware hog:
First, let me say, I’ve been running Vista myself for quite some time. Next to me at this very moment is a Gateway 835GM. Under the hood, it has an Intel Pentium D 2.8GHz dual-core processor, an Intel 945G chipset, 1GB DDR2 (double data rate) DRAM, a 250GB SATA hard drive, and built-in Intel GMA (graphics media accelerator) 950 graphics. That’s a fairly powerful machine. Which is a good thing, because it’s the only PC in my office of 20 PCs that’s got enough oomph to run the Windows Vista February CTP (Community Technology Preview) build 5308 without driving me into fits of rage.
There seem to be a number of similar complaints, which I put down to the beta itself, and which will presumably be substantially remedied in the final version so that the buyer of new hardware will be satisfied with the performance of his new PC running Windows Vista. On that basis, the answer to this question is also “No.”
To net it out, there doesn’t seem to be anything in the back and forth over Vista features that is going to make any difference for good or ill in the Windows franchise on new client PCs. One may despair at the inability of consumers to appreciate the technical nuances, but that’s the way it is.